Days of Wonder did it right!
Heat is one of the best racing board games I have played. And let me pair this statement with another one: I am a sucker for racing games, and I played a lot of them. When I say the game is great, I really mean it.
It has a simple and brilliant heat mechanism that forces us to think desperately about what to do before each turn and curve. It’s a small deck – our valuable resource. How much do you want to burn it this time, how many cards from this deck may you risk discarding this time? With this one rule, designers Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen created the best board gaming equation: maximum player excitement achieved with minimum rules complexity.
On top of that, there are smart push-your-luck mechanisms (so-called driver stress), there is clever discard-your-hand ruling, there are simple yet fun-changing gears mechanisms. All of it together builds a modern board game, a clear manifestation of how the industry developed over the years and how well designers mastered their craft.
I am writing about Heat today because of a different reason, though. After years of milking Ticket to Ride, I believe Days of Wonder finally struck gold again, like they used to do regularly back then, before you-know-what-happened.
Heat has two rulebooks.
Be with me here. Let me say that again. Heat has two separate rulebooks.
The base one covers all game rules on 4 only pages. It’s easy and not intimidating. It lets you open the box, play, and enjoy the game 10 minutes later. It’s everything we want in modern design – shorten the learning process, kill the rulebook’s obstacle, and let the customer enjoy the product right after he bought it. Don’t make him spend 30 minutes learning the product. Let him just play.
Could I do it with Imperial Settlers? Today I know I could. Remove Faction decks, let players build the Empire with only common cards, have a blast building Villages, and Forests, and enjoy the game after 5 minutes of reading rules. With the base rule set of Heat is the same – it is already fun, clever, and exciting enough that I bet many players will end up never reading the other rulebook. They will play the game their whole life on a basic set and will have a blast.
If you are a geek, if you are part of BGG folk, if you are one of those who are not afraid of rulebooks, you’ll jump deep into the other 20 pages of additional rules and variants. Days of Wonder know that. But what is most important, Days of Wonder know that you are a fraction of customers. You, who have no problem with reading rulebooks, are a statistic mistake. You represent 0.01% of human beings on planet Earth.
We, the industry, appreciate you. We, the industry, need you. But the faster we, the industry, learn how to design games, not for you but for the rest of the planet, the faster we will mature and grow.
Days of Wonder published a gamer’s game that people can buy and enjoy after 10 minutes. A game that has 4 pages rulebook for the people. And another one for you, our dear weirdos.
I applaud Days of Wonder. I always knew they can do much more than sell me another ticket to…