Theme Park Board Game Design Blog – Week 7

This week, I conducted a playtest to determine how it feels to put together the board pieces into a full map. The details of the gameplay aren’t entirely decided yet, but since building the map is probably the most important aspect of the game, I figured it’d be important to test by itself.

Setup

To do this playtest, I cut several board pieces out of craft foam (I found that paper wouldn’t stay put well enough to test). I made five tentative themes (Frontier, Spooky, Future, Jungle, and Steampunk), each with a distinct color. On top of several path pieces, each theme has an entrance gate, a snack stand, a dark ride, a flat ride, a live show, street performers, a gift shop, fine dining, a 4D movie, a coaster, and a thrill ride. The thrill rides and coasters have symbols indicating that a gift shop can be attached to them. Different attractions, restaurants, shops, and shows had different sizes and shapes. I gated placement of the larger pieces behind turn number (i.e. the two-hex pieces could only be built after 3 turns, three-hex pieces after 4, etc…).

The test followed these rules:

  • Path pieces must touch at least one other path piece of the same theme
  • Buildings may only touch paths with a matching theme
  • Buildings with different themes may touch each other

Gameplay

Players simply went around in a circle, each choosing up to three path tiles from a single theme and drawing an attraction, restaurant, shop, or show randomly from size-based piles. Players would place the tiles as they liked before passing the turn onto the next player. This continued for several rounds until the board looked like so:

Results

Placement

It was very satisfying to place something that fits well. Players found that the best moments were when they were able to place buildings in smart, efficient ways, such as in the two pictures below:

In each of these examples, players have placed attractions in such a way that they can be fit into a small area while still following the rules of the game. Players mentioned that filling in the nooks and crannies on the board was interesting and fun. This made the start of the game less fun, as players were simply placing paths to build outwards without many constraints. On a similar notes, players thought it would be fun to have differently-shaped pieces, such as L-shapes or X’s. This would make finding the perfect spot even more satisfying.

Placement Rules

One thing players found difficult to get a grasp of were the placement rules. It proved to be tough to remember exactly what pieces were allowed to go where. Having indicators on the edges of the cards themselves could help alleviate this issue.

Synergies

Players also really liked some of the synergies built into the game, such as the symbols indicating that gift shops can connect to larger rides. I think other synergies could be a great addition, such as putting together buildings of different themes but same type (i.e. Frontier restaurant, Future restaurant, and Jungle restaurant together). Since all of those buildings would realistically share a back-of-house facility, it would make since to give them all a boost in the game.

Hub

Players thought that the hub was fairly restrictive and forced them to build a park following a certain pre-set design. Since the goal would ultimately be to allow players to build a different styles of parks, I feel that there is a better solution out there. One of the players mentioned that it would be cool to have a park entrance tile and theme-less “entrance paths”. Players could place them however they’d like, meaning they could build a Main Street-style land to welcome guests to the park, or a hub, or any other variation. The freedom provided by this concept is perfect for the game.

Obstacles

Since there weren’t many opportunities to affect other players, the playtesters thought it would be interesting to add “obstacles” that you could place down to mess up others’ plans, such as lakes or theme-less decorations that can be placed anywhere. There were also some areas on the board that couldn’t be filled by anything due to the rules. It could be a good idea to place theme-less decorations in those spaces to fill out the board.

Personalization

The playtesters mentioned that it would be fun to be able to name their own attractions. I suggested picking two parts of a name from random piles (i.e. pulling “Panther’s” and “Revenge” to get the ride name “Panther’s Revenge”. They seemed to really like this idea, as it gave the game a greater feeling of personalization, which is important in a game where players are designing.

Goals

This playtest didn’t really have goals for the players to achieve other than simply building up the park. That being said, I polled players on some options for goals to see how they responded. Players seemed to like the idea of personal goals similar to those in Ticket to Ride (i.e. Build four rides of different themes, Build three shops or restaurants in the Spooky theme). This would add interest in the fact that players wouldn’t know each others’ goals and would therefore have to consider being sneaky about their building strategies.

Conclusion

Both I and my playtesters had a great time trying the game out! The players all said it felt like they were putting together a theme park, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I think the most useful bits of information were those about what makes placement fun (putting hard-to-fit pieces in just the right spot) but all of the comments will be very helpful in moving forward with the game.

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