Theme Park Board Game Design Blog – Week 5

As last week I took a look at the layout of features in parks, this week I’m considering the growth of a park. I’m also taking a deeper dive into why the layout of the park matters in the game.


One of the cool things about theme parks is that the growth of the park is built directly into the layout. The entrance to each land is typically dotted with small restaurants and shops, as guests have to travel through the area to reach any of the other attractions. There are also typically smaller rides and shows towards the front of the land that don’t take up much room, pulling guests away from the bigger attractions in order to keep lines shorter. The biggest attractions (the “weenies”) are placed at the back of the park to draw guests in and provide a point of reference.

This increase in size and popularity for features in a land maps well to a board game. Players would start building the smaller features towards the front of the land, building up a solid foundation of snack shops, gift shops, and small attractions, before building larger and more expensive features in the back of the land.


One important thing that I realized was that at the moment, there’s no reason for players to build the parks in such a way that resembles a real theme park. The paths don’t really mean anything to players other than a way to connect attractions and other buildings. As such, one of the best and most efficient ways to build a park in the game would be to have a perfectly straight path with attractions and buildings on both sides.

Players would each have a meeple or similar piece to move around the map. This represents their designer as he or she travels around, planning out the design of the park. This would mean players would need to consider placing the pathing in such a way that they can easily traverse from one area to another.

Players could move their piece from one section of path to an adjacent one and would only be able to build in adjacent hexes. The movement of the pieces wouldn’t be a primary objective. It would simply provide players with a reason for making smart pathing choices.

Another possible way to use the movement mechanic would be to make it so designers can ride, eat at, and shop at others attractions’, restaurants, and shops. This would provide “inspiration” for their own building projects.


Having players move their pieces around the board also opens up a new potential mechanic – trains. Trains have always been closely tied with theme parks. Walt Disney was a huge fan of trains, going so far as to build a miniature railroad in his own backyard. When Disneyland was built, train tracks were placed to circle the park and in a sense “contain” the magic and provide a boundary between the “real world” and the park.

I had been thinking for a long time on how to integrate trains into the game, but was never quite sure how. One of the original plans was to have a train track laid out to circle the park and provide boundaries that the players had to build within. Now, I’m thinking that if players have to move around the park on the pathways, trains could provide an opportunity for “teleportation” to other parts of the map.

Say one player places a train station on the far east side of the park while another places one on the far west side. Players could now instantly travel from one side to the other via the train. I think the visual design of the station would be such that the train goes underground or into a tunnel immediately after leaving the station, removing the need to have tracks laid out on the table.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I think about theme parks quite a bit, as may be obvious after reading a few of these blogs. That being said, I figured it would be a good idea to include some thoughts not related to the board game at all.

Themed Music Loops

One of my favorite things about themed lands (especially in the Disney parks) is the distinct, unique audio tracks that play throughout. These are typically collections of tracks from movies and rides, or sometimes even original work. They feature songs using instruments befitting the land (i.e. no synthesizers in Frontierland). These songs work wonders in setting up the stories the land will tell.

A lot of the time, I listen to these while studying, as they provide hours of material with no lyrics (making it easier to concentrate on other work). Here are a few of my favorites for your listening pleasure!


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