Board games that are quick to learn, quick to play, but pack a punch

Chad DeShon

Do you love 3+ hour games? Here's my top 6 board games.

1. Napoleon's Triumph (4 hours, 30+ plays)
2. Haggis (1 hour, 15+ plays)
3. Age of Steam (2.5 hours, 100+ plays)
4. Indonesia (2.5 hours, 15+ plays)
5. Die Macher (3.5 hours, 15+ plays)
6. Maria (4 hours, 30+ plays)

But it is really great to be able to get a
brain twisting,
meaty game
in less than 45 min.

Learning Napoleon's is difficult. The first two times you play, you are just moving pieces around and seeing what happens. You aren't "really playing" until at least your third play. By this time you've invested 8 hours. I am so glad I put in the effort to learn it, but many people will never have that chance. Moreover, why would you take that risk? That is a big investment for something you may or may not like. There are so many good games on our shelves.

It is getting harder and harder to justify the time and toil to learn new games. I can't ignore the shiny new games. But more and more I find myself resisting games that are going to be hard to learn, because learning games cuts into my time for playing games.

The onus is on the publishers to make games easier to learn. Harder to learn does not equate to deeper game play. Easier to learn does not equate to boring game play.

This has steered the type of games that we ( are going to be publishing. 

Less than 45 min
Games that are easy to get to the table. Games you can play twice in one sitting.

Four page rulebook - with lots of illustrations
Like I said. Quick to learn. Easy to learn.

We spend lots and lots of time on our rulebook so that you won't have to. You shouldn't be scratching your head while you read the rules.

Easy to remember how to play
Don't you hate it when you have to re-learn a game every time you want to play it?

The second time you play our games, I want you to be playing as soon as it hits the table. We've focused on two things to make this happen.
1. Making rules intuitive. This means there are few "exceptions" to the normal rules, and rules jive with the theme.
2. Player aids and components that remind you and guide to follow the rules.

Here are three specific examples of how we did this in QE.
1. We put the setup instructions on the back of one of the player boards.
2. There is an action (called "the QE action") that is available to all players in the 4 and 5 player game, but is not used when playing with 3 players. Instead of asking you to remember that, we wrote "no 3-player" next to the spot where you take the action.
3. Each player gets an "industry tile" at the start of the game. In the original rules, there were some scoring categories where you could use your industry tile and some where you couldn't. This caused constant questions during the game, "Remind me again, which categories does my industry tile count for?" After doing a little math, we figured out that we could tweak the point scale a bit and allow the industry tile to count in all scoring categories. This shaved a couple minutes off the teaching time and is one less thing for you to remember as you play. You can focus on playing instead of remembering how to play.

This seems obvious in hindsight.

But they weren't obvious at first. They are problems that we noticed from watching people play the game. We'd see them make a rules error or have a rules question. Then - instead of blaming the player for "not reading the rules closely enough" - we would blame ourselves instead. We would ask, "how can we make it impossible for people to make that mistake in the future?"

Well produced
I respect the money you are spending on board games. But I might respect your time even more. The time you are spending with our games is precious. There are thousands of games being made. Many of you have games on your shelf that you will never get to. If not on your shelf, you have a list of games that you'd like to play.

I think that if you are going to play my game, then I need to make that the absolute best gaming experience I can. That means great art to look at. Components with kinetics that pull you into the game.

Some people might say that we should just focus on game play. I think this hobby long-ago passed the either/or decision of game play versus beauty. I see no reason why we shouldn't have both.

(Shout out to our fantastic artist, Anca Gavil, who did the art for On Tour and QE and is heads down working on art for our next game right now.)

Purchased directly from us
We are focused on selling games to you directly from our website, not having our game carried by other online stores or Amazon. (We also work with FLGS that deal with us directly. We have nothing personally against those online stores. We just don't think they are the best method for us to sell games right now.)

But we think that, at least for the time being, selling to you directly lets us
-listen to you better,
-provide better customer support to you,
-and generally steer our attention toward you, the actual gamer.

Short and easy to learn doesn't mean there can't still be strategy.

Games I like
More than anything, this is going to be my guiding light. I didn't start a board game publishing company to publish games that I think are "ok". I'm going to publish games that I personally want to keep pulling off the shelf. Games that I am excited to teach to new friends

You might not agree with my taste at every step. But you can be sure that there is a nugget in there that a real human considers special.

I am fine publishing a game that is too niche for other publishers. If we publish a game, and it only sells 500 copies, I won't consider that a failure. 500 people are getting to play a great game. We won't be publishing games just because we think they are "marketable".

Who knows? Maybe one of these niche games will surprise us and become a hit. We have seen that even the experts aren't able to accurately predict how well a game will sell.

In a few weeks we're going to announce the next game we are publishing. I think it checks all the boxes above. (If you are really curious, it is already on BGG if you do some hunting.)

Happy gaming,

P.S. North Star Games has been a leader in making good games easier to learn and bringing them to a wider audience. The newest game in their Evolution Series, "Oceans" is on Kickstarter right now. The campaign ends TODAY. You might just check out the video to see if it is the type of game you are into. I get no compensation for this recommendation.

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