Let’s talk about replayability
I am obsessed with replayability in my designs. You probably know it pretty well from Robinson Crusoe – 300 different cards with events and adventures, 6 different scenarios in the box, 3 more scenarios as a free expansions downloadable from our website… You buy Robinson and I promise that you’ll have like 100 hours of fun. This is me designing games. The same is true for Stronghold, Imperial Settlers, for all the games I make. Replayability is the king.
Even though my design philosophy is all about putting in the box so much content that you will never get bored, I actually agree with Tom Vasel who once said in his podcast that if he play a game and have a great gaming night with his friends, the game would already be worth buying and it might have the replayability value of 0 (zero!) and he would still be happy.
Probably most of you now think that this is dumbest thing you’ve ever read on this blog.
Believe it or not, but I am with Tom on this one.
Let me explain.
Grab your 3 friends and go to the cinema to see Spectre. 4 x 20 = 80 usd
Grab your wife and 2 kids and go to the ZOO. 4 x 20 = 80 usd
Grab your girlfriend and take her to a concert. 2 x 50 = 100 usd
Grab your friends and buy and play Robinson Crusoe. 1 x 70 usd
OMG, I would never buy Robinson if I could play it only once!!! Well, really? How about giving it a second thought, huh?
I am writing about this because Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock did something extraordinary. They convinced you to buy a game that has a limited replaybility. You’ll play about 12 games of Pandemic Legacy and that’s it. You are done with it.
(yeah, I know, the first step was made with Rob’s Risk Legacy)
And yet the players are not complaining.
The players are happy like a kid who just got his Sphero BB-8 Droid.
The players praise it to be a great game.
The players value the experience they had, just as they would do with watching an amazing movie or reading an amazing book.
The players are witnessing a revolution, even though they might not be recognizing that yet.
Back to Tom Vasel statement – the question we might ask today is if we are ready to pay 60 or 80 usd for an amazing one-time experience, just like we pay for a cinema ticket, a Rolling Stones concert or a visit to the ZOO.
I think we are not there yet. But the wall has been breached. Pandemic Legacy has showed us that there is a new world out there.
I am very curious what’s next. Are you?
edited by Piotr, thank you!
A Robinson Crusoe Legacy edition maybe??:)
I have heard comments before comparing the value of board games to the value of taking a family out for a night at the movies, now even a concert or the zoo. I find it difficult to compare these experiences as a „$60 for 2 hour experience”. Good movies have stirred powerful emotions in me: I’ve been inspired, made incredibly thankful for my family, had past pain resurfaced add addressed. I’ve talked about an impact-ful movie for days, weeks, even years. I’ve talked about a trip to the zoo for years to come, and often looked back at the pictures. I’ve yet to have a board game experience that has had that deep of an impact on me. I’ve talked about a game the next day, or even the following week. But, over a 3 year board game career, only 1 or 2 games stand out beyond that.
Now, some movies are very forgettable. When I get done with them, I usually wish I would’ve bought a board game instead! I love board games, they are unique in their ability to create a fun environment with family, friends, even strangers. I just feel a movie, concert, or family zoo excursion can have a greater value than just the 2 hour experience. Board games have some lasting impact, but I find these other experiences can have a greater lasting impact not seen in the mere „$60 for 2 hour experience”. I don’t expect a board game to inspire me, challenge me (except my patience or temper), or make me feel a strong sense of emotion. All that to say, I don’t think a straight $ vs. Time Spent is the best metric. I would like to see more games that create memorable experiences. But, I guess I don’t expect them to compete with going to the zoo, a concert, a vacation, or a dinner out. Thanks for the blog.
Not at all, actually. In my opinion replayability is what is great about games, be it video, board or card games. Sure, Spectre was cool and all, concert was a fun experience but after all that one-time deals I want to go back to my hobby – sit in front of a computer monitor, a tv screen for consoles, or just grab my friends and enjoy another night of crunching numbers in Settlers, or trying to survive yet another night in Robinson. Sure, for expanding design posibilities that „shift” may be cool and all, I can see why designers can be all pumped-up about it (as I myself strive to be one) but for players who just like tons of content, well, it’s a tiny, little bit disheartening.
But seriously, how many times have you played your average game?
Some years ago I was discussing with a friend about to launch a (now) sucessful publishing company, he talked how eager he as to publish infinite replayability games, and we talked about Dune.
Amazing, Incredible, Unique game.
And then we talked about how many time we played it. „Less than fifteen to ten games” was our estimate.
To me, replayability is a relative notion. I’ve played less than ten games of most games I own, whereas some of my favorites, including some „heavy” games (Agricola, Terra mystica, Robinson – indeed 😉 ) saw way more plays.
But if the game embedds a limited replayability, it also means it has to promise me to enhance the play each time I’ll „burn” a limited play, it’s just a different approach, note rally breaking a wall.
Finally, Legacy isn’t the first of it’s kind, the (excellent) Sherlock Holmes, the one-evening-from-the-base-game TIME story and some others did it before, for instance. But I’ll be about to buy them, I’ll ask them something else than when I bought Robinson: to be exceptional, and keep their promise for each single game I’ll play from it…
I want to say it loud and clear: I will NEVER buy a game which is not replayable. I am buying games now, but my dream is to play these games with my kids. It is simple as that. No replayability = no purchase.
Cost for games includes replayability so the comparison to one-off entertainments is moot. Replayable or not, I don’t want to mess up my game board state permanently.