A few months ago I discussed the many games I’ve been working on since Corporate America went to the printers. I’m happy to tell you that Fungus (still looking for a real name) is one of the games that made the cut!
Today I want to discuss the design goals I have for Fungus. I’m not sure if “design goal” is an official term, but I’m using it to describe high level objectives I have for the game. As you’ll see, these come in many flavors and are inspired by many things.
Why should you care about my design goals for Fungus? For one thing, the game is sweet! But even if you’re not terribly interested in my games, I think the concept of design goals is very useful for all game designers. They offer guidance when you’re making decisions and give you a rubric to judge how well your game is performing.
So… let’s examine the design goals for Fungus!
First Pick Mechanic
My first design goals came from the initial inspiration for the game. You see, I really enjoy drafting. Drafting is one of the most subtly interactive mechanics. It’s straight forward enough for beginners to pick it up quickly, but it has nearly limitless depth as players strive to identify and react to what other players are doing.
I play games with drafting a lot, especially Magic and 7 Wonders (so much so that I wrote an in depth design analysis of it). While both of these games are extremely fun, they both have their flaws. One day, I asked myself how I would address some of those problems.
Sometimes, a little nudge is all you need to start you down a whole new path. I’d never really questioned the way drafting works in these games, but now I started questioning everything. Why three rounds? Why do drafting pools always disappear? Could the more interactive component not be totally separated from the drafting component (like in Magic)?
I didn’t know the answers, but I decided to find out by attempting to make my own drafting game. My dissatisfaction with existing drafting games determined four design goals for Fungus:
1. Lots of interaction. There is interaction in 7 Wonders, but it’s very limited and subtle. I want a game in which players directly compete for resources.
2. Fast setup and cleanup. 7 Wonders plays fast, but setting it up is another matter. You have to completely reconfigure decks based on the number of players. After the game, you have to separate the cards. I want Fungus to involve one deck that just needs to be shuffled before playing.
3. One unified game. Drafting in Magic is great, but I’m often annoyed after drafting ends and I have to start playing the actual game. Why can’t I just draft the whole time!? I want to explore drafting and playing a more interactive game simultaneously.
4. Always something there. In both 7 Wonders and Magic, draft pools dwindle, making the last few picks not really picks at all. And anyone who’s played Magic knows that maybe 10% of games are not even played because the wrong proportion of cards is drawn. I want to avoid both of these problems.
Back to the Basics
While similar games helped define some design goals for Fungus, Corporate America, my last game, shaped some as well.
In many ways, Corporate America was a response to the game I was working on before it (Ideological Empires, or simply The Cold War Game, for the curious). And Fungus is similarly a response to Corporate America. Don’t get me wrong–Corporate America is great and I’m very proud of it. But it’s not perfect for all situations, and Fungus is partially my attempt to address those situations. I want Fungus to be appropriate when Corporate America isn’t.
5. 2+ players. I intentionally designed Corporate America for party-ish situations (3-6 players), but I was disappointed to discover that some people weren’t interested in a game that couldn’t handle 2 players. I want to make sure Fungus is fun with just one friend, although I don’t want to neglect bigger groups.
6. 30-45 minute playtime. Corporate America is a two hour or so experience, making it a great way to spend a whole evening, but difficult to fit in with other activities. I want Fungus to be more compact so it’s easier to sneak a game in.
Long time readers know that I think making a game engaging is about as important as anything. Corporate America actually excels in this department, and I didn’t want Fungus to be any different, even though the experiences are vastly different. Here are some specific goals.
7. Maximize simultaneous play. Drafting games have a history of simultaneous play (since players can all draft at the same time) and I want Fungus to continue that tradition.
8. Short turns. Because players will be interacting with each other directly, taking turns will be necessary. But where they are necessary, I want to make sure each player’s turn is short so no one has enough time to lose interest.
9. ‘Till the bitter end. I don’t like games where players lose hope half way through but still have to slog through until the end. With Corporate America, I discovered that hidden victory points were a great way to keep people from getting discouraged, and I plan to bring something similar to Fungus.
Generally Good Ideas
To wrap up my design goals, I have a couple that are good for any game, which I always want to keep in mind.
10. Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master. For me (and I imagine many other game designers), the easy to learn is the hard part. Drafting games tend to have a lot of depth built in, so my goal is to make sure Fungus is very easy to pick up.
11. Keep it Clean. I’ll be honest: I like being nasty in games. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s just fun to have the opportunity to crush other people’s plans. (I’m a nice guy in real life, honest!) But in my games, I try to limit how nasty players can be to each other. This is a design goal for two reasons. First, I want to be mindful of my natural tendency to allow players to hurt each other, because people dislike losing more than they like gaining. Second, strategies that allow players to step on each others’ toes tend to lengthen a game, making design goal 6 (30 – 45 minutes) less likely, violating one of the most important things to consider when it comes to designing a game.
And there you have it… my design goals for Fungus!
You’ll notice that none of them have to do with specific mechanics or theme. Theme wise, the game began completely abstract, so early on it was not a consideration. I’m sure I’ll discuss the usual theme of the game in another post.
For mechanics, I didn’t want to tie myself down to any particular mechanics (other than drafting, which defines the game). The goals are about the experience, not the system that will create that experience. By not being attached to any particular mechanics, I can dump them and add them as necessary to make sure the game is performing the way I want it to.
So, how am I doing with Fungus‘s design goals? Join me next time when I discuss how the game is developing and choices I’ve made to hit my goals!