Game Design Rules #5: Small Changes can Make a Huge Difference

At one point during the testing sessions of “Industrial Revolution!”, I tried a small change on the board that really surprised me in a positive way.

The main loop of the game has workers starting in their Workshop, going get resources on the board, and bringing them back to that Workshop. Originally, those Workshops were placed outside the board, connected to the edge, which had doors so workers could enter and exit their Workshop.

To be honest, I don’t even remember why I did it that way in the first place, but at some point I decided to test having the Workshops inside the board. I was hoping to make the games a bit shorter, as workers would start already inside the board, closer to those resources, and that meant less turns to get them and bring them back.

It happened as I expected (for once), which was already an improvement, but it also had a lot of unexpected good consequences.

 Now I Hate You a Bit Less

In a game full of powerful cards designed to attack and annoy your friends, in order to avoid converting them to ex-friends, it’s important that they can easily recover from those attacks to keep enjoying the game.

As many of those cards will send the affected workers back to their Workshop as part of their effects, having it inside the board meant they could get back to action immediately, while with the other system it felt like they were losing 1 turn till they could do something useful.


That Card is Overpowered Now (As it Should)

Some cards required to be “next to” an enemy’s Workshop to be used. They were powerful, but almost impossible to use, as those workshops were too far away, and a worker moving in that direction was really suspicious.

The change made all Workshops closer to each other, so those cards were easier to use and as powerful (or overpowered), as all the other cards.
I was also able to change them so they had to be used “inside” the Workshop and not “next to”, which seemed to make more sense and was easier to understand.

 No, Really… That Card is Overpowered (As it Should)

Some other cards that were already useful, also gained other interesting uses with the change. Now some cards that could move resources or workers around could be used to move them directly inside Workshops, and not just close to them, opening new strategies, with some even allowing great combos to win the game.


Conveyor Belts are Dangerous

Another consequence of moving the Workshop is that conveyor belts are now in contact with the Workshops, making them more useful as they are the fastest way to travel around the board.

Being next to Workshops allow for quick enter-and-exit movements, both on your own and on enemy Workshops. Again, that made some cards and some other elements easier to use. And people started getting paranoid seeing workers on top of them, which is also something good.


Rules Slightly Simplified

As a final bonus, the change made some rules a bit simpler, as now I didn’t have to explain how to place the Workshops outside the board, and could remove a rule which made workers only able to enter their own Workshop. Those are small changes, but any change that makes the Rulebook simpler or shorter is really welcomed.


In conclusion, I think it’s important to try any ideas even if they only seem to be a small change, as their consequences can affect many other systems in a game and cause a big improvement.


On the next blog post I’ll explain why randomness is good, and also bad.


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