If you’re a regular host of board game nights or bear the title “Bringer of Games” to your friends and family, then you understand that there’s actually quite a lot that goes into making a board game night successful. It’s the setup and teardown, the understanding of how to best teach a game so as to not be intimidating, and how to keep the game running smoothly without worrying about additional components, rules, etc. Casual games have risen in popularity for the beforementioned reasons when it comes to what I’ll be calling “board game management.”
1. Speed Up the Boarding Process
Board game setup is something designers are paying attention to, and it is seemingly one of the easier things to nail about a game. Much shorter games tend to have shorter setup and teardown, while longer games take more time. There is something elegant about some smaller games like Coup or Love Letter that allow you to jump right in without shuffling multiple decks of cards, setting up player mats, or distributing resources across a table-sized board. Likewise, games with a lot of setup can really affect a player’s experience if the directions are unclear or complicated. If you’re hosting a game night or bringing your game to one, you don’t want players to be waiting around a table while one person ponderously sets up the game.
It’s not uncommon to see games that take half an hour to set up, with Mansions of Madness or even Big Book of Madness being examples of this. (I’m not sure if the madness is a recurring factor here.) A group’s first game can easily take four hours to complete, especially including rules explanations, character and board setup, and some of the usual analysis paralysis. There are solutions out there, like token organizers, or setting the game up beforehand, but that’s not always an option.
Another part of the setup is explaining the rules. Though this is less related to the physical board game setup, it’s an integral piece of the experience. A good rulebook can greatly improve a player’s initial experience, and there are even some who consider it to be as important to a board game as the mechanics. YouTube channels like Watch It Played or videos created by the publishers themselves can be helpful resources to cut down on lengthy explanations and poorly-written rules.
That said, most games tend to have reasonable setups, even if it means shuffling a few decks. Having an easy setup is what oftentimes separates a good game from a great one, and if you can play a game that sets up twice as fast, that means you can play it twice as much as one that requires a lot of assembly. A game designed with easy setup will oftentimes be hard to notice because the experience takes the forefront. It’s only when you run into games that are real beasts to set up that you realize how easy some of your favorite games are in contrast.
However, if you must play a game with a long or difficult setup, do your game group a favor and set it up in advance. This will make the game much more inviting to play.
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