Is Your Board Game Boring Your Players?

Your players enter the game excited and seem to be having a fantastic time. But, for some reason, after thirty minutes or so they begin to flag. By the time your hour long game is done, they're wiped out. They keep insisting that your game was fun, but it doesn't look like they're chomping at the bit to try it again. What happened? Why is your board game boring?

The Danger of a Static Game

A static game is the most common problem with independently developed games. Games that last longer than 30 to 45 minutes need to change and evolve over time. In Catan, the game board is changing. In Star Realms, individual decks are changing. This means that players are constantly adapting to new challenges and changing their strategies.

But take a game like Asking for Trobils, a worker placement, mission completion and set collection game. Asking for Trobils takes about two hours to complete, but the game never changes: you mine resources, pull events, and turn resources in for victory point cards. Because the game doesn't change (apart from buying additional workers early on), it becomes fatiguing over time.

There are enough options in the game to keep it interesting for the first half. But it drags during the second, once all of the mechanics have been learned. Games that last longer than an hour need to evolve over time; something has to change.

Playing With the Right Players

What if your game does change and evolve over time, but your players are still losing interest? It could be that their initial enthusiasm for your game is slowly waning because they aren't interested in the game type or its premise. Even if they may begin with energy and excitement, the reality of playing a game they just aren't interested in will eventually hit. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

There are very few games that have general mass appeal. Most games have a specific audience. If you're testing a deck builder, you don't want to test your game primarily on those who enjoy dense euro worker placement games. Though you still want to try your game out on a general audience, the input given by your core audience -- which you should identity early on -- is most important.

Dealing With the Exposition 

People complain about exposition in books, movies, and television shows all the time. It can be just as difficult in a game. Players tend to get bored when they have to do a lot of reading all at once. Breaking it out so that they can learn gradually as they play is often a better solution.

Creating a “fun” game is a challenge, but on a practical level, it usually just amounts to giving players interesting actions that they can take. By keeping in mind the evolution of your game and its static mechanics, you can at least make sure your players are consistently engaged -- and that can be half the battle.