Missing in Action

Hello again, or for the first time. Remember me?

This blog has gone silent for too long, and I have been putting off posting about House Rules for even longer.

A lot of things have happened with the game since we left off.

I suspended the Kickstarter for a couple reasons:

1) I wasn't going to hit the goal I set out for myself. I had hoped people would stumble upon the game and get interested and hyped about it just be reading about it. Turns out there is a lot of pre-production and planning that goes into getting the word out about Kickstarter games. I completely missed this mark, and while I had the support of my friends and family in this endeavor, it didnt generate the kind of momentum that a game needs be fully funded. I learned a lot from failing my first campaign, and in the future I will apply these lessons.

2) The game was not in a place that I felt comfortable self publishing.

Looking back on where the game was, it lacked a lot of polish and was incomplete. The game relied too much on having invested and creative players to create their own fun, and fill in a lot of the gaps that I designed into the game on purpose. The game was designed to have players "play it their own way" but ultimately this was a challenge for some players to grasp.

In regards to it's incompleteness, the game suffered from being an unforgiving player elimination game. Player elimination games, while great at creating player tension and competetiveness, are also taboo in the board games industry where better designs exist that get all players to the end of the game still feeling engaged and included. It was my thought that I was going to throw it back in a way of being lighthearted player elimination game.

After making some adjustments, I got the game to a point where after the first player was eliminated, the game would end very quickly after that, which felt like a huge success. However, by doing so the problem then became that the playtimes would vary wildly based on player composition (3 player games were too short and 5 player games were too long) and rule cards that got introduced into play would often speed up or slow down the game dramatically. 

It was at this time (around November 2016) that I took the game to BGG con, a convention of enthusiastic board gamers. I applied to pitch House Rules to a speed dating event where I would talk to roughly a dozen publishers for 5 mins a piece. A lot of people thought the rule rotation mechanic as well as giving players the ability to create their own rules were very clever. They also thought the artwork, and the humor of the game were big selling points. Ultimately the game suffered heavily because of it's player elimination mechanic. Those games just dont do well in the current market.

Also, BGG gamers are some of the more hardcore audience I have come across. I played it with a few people, but ultimately they just looked really bored with the game. Many of these gamers are a more "euro" audience, where playing board games involve moving cubes around a board. House Rules is not specifically for the hardcore folks. I mainly wanted to make it for non-gamers, parties, or just a light pick up game.

After BGG con, I took a good long break from working on the game. I knew that the game needed to change, but I did not know to approach it, or what to do about it. Also, my wife and I were pregnant and expecting a kiddo in a few months. I took this opportunity to take a break from the game, and take a step back and reassess what I wanted from it.

In the last few months or so I have picked up my designer pen and started correcting the problems I saw with the game. The game is in a really good sweet spot right now, and I have solved a lot of the problems I had with it. I'll go over these changes in detail over the next few blog posts, and if you are interested, the latest print and play version is available:

House Rules Print and Play