Replayability in Game Design – Big Easy Busking

Weird Giraffe Games is owned by Carla and Nick Kopp, plus our cat Fluffins. We have created four board and card games since starting in 2016, all of which have been on the nerdy side of things.
  • Super Hack Override – (a Booster Box inclusion) a fast-paced card-swapping game to find the best hacker among all the players
  • Stellar Leap – a space exploration game among alien species hoping to make a name for themselves throughout the galaxy by discovering new planets, mining asteroids, and completing missions
  • Fire in the Library – a press your luck game to save as many books as you can from a burning library
  • Dreams of Tomorrow – dream engineers in the future try to create epic dream sequences to send into the past to change the future

Our latest game, Big Easy Busking, is a bit different than our other games and definitely different in theme. In the game, you are a street musician trying to win it big in New Orleans. Match the mood of the audience, pick the best location, and reap the biggest tips to win!

Even though I’ve worked on games with very different themes and a variety of mechanics, I do try to make the games similar in a lot of ways. I want the games to be simple enough that you can play with friends and family that might not have played other hobby games before, but also strategic enough that gamers are still satisfied with the experience. I also try to make the games replayable, have a wide player count, a really satisfying solo experience, and still affordable.

To me, replayability is important – I want buyers to be able to play them over and over again while not getting bored or feeling like their purchase wasn’t worth the cost. While some people have shelves full of games and may not rank replayability highly, not everyone is like that. Even if you only have a few games in your gaming library, I want Big Easy Busking to be one you can take out week after week and still get a satisfying and different experience.

Making a game replayable is a balancing act. If affordability weren’t a factor, doubling the amount of cards easily enhances variety. However, supporters would have to bear that cost. Complexity could also be ratcheted up in order to achieve replayability, but then the learning curve goes way up.

I served as game developer for Big Easy Busking. As a game developer, instead of designing it, I polish an existing design to better fit the publisher’s line. Completed goals included extending the player count, designing a solo version, and improving replayability. For background, the rules:

GameLayout3

  • Description: Players begin with a hand of three song cards. During each round, players can only play each song once, so they don’t bore the crowds. If they want to play more songs, they either have to learn a song or play a standard song that everyone knows, but these standard songs take up more energy to play, as your band members are rather tired of playing them. Each song requires different amounts of energy from each of your three band members. When you play a song, you choose a crowd to play the song to. Each crowd will give the person with the most energy on the crowd a payout and they will also give a specific payment to anyone with a certain amount of energy on the crowd card.
  1. Crowd Cards. The three values on the cards (payout, threshold, and threshold payout) were usually 2 and 3, with the rare 1 and 4 showing up. This meant that every crowd was very similar,with none standing out as definitely better or worse.I added in a lot of variety to this, making crowds that paid out a lot more, crowds with high thresholds, but low payouts, and cards with high threshold payouts. This meant that when the crowd cards came out, there were crowds that were distinctly more valuable and players would usually fight over them A LOT. It created interesting dynamics, as sometimes most of the players would fight over the high paying crowd, while another player would sneakily win all the low paying crowds and end up with more money over all.
  2. Song Cards. The three values on the song cards (trumpet, drums, sax), were all between 0-3 in the original game and they totaled either 3 or 4. There was no real difference between the song cards that you started with to the ones you could learn and the standards. This meant that learning a new song would give you another option of a song to play and the ability to play four songs in a round without using more energy to play a standard song, but not much else.I wanted to both make songs worth learning and the standard songs worth playing. I tried out a few things; songs that took very little energy to play, songs that only took a certain instrument but had two moods, and songs that took a lot of energy to play but were every mood. Getting even one of these new cards provided a new strategy that you could use in the game and definitely gave you more flexibility than someone that didn’t learn any songs.
  3. Standard Cards. The standards used the same pool of songs as the ones you could learn and even though I made them more interesting, I thought they needed an extra bit to make them really worth playing and different from the songs that you learned.Thus, the idea of abilities was born. Each game of Big Easy Busking has three standards that aren’t changed in the game. I added to this one ability card which was a song that could be played, but could also grant you a one-time ability every time you played it. These abilities did things like let you learn a song immediately, move energy from one crowd to another, or even take back your played songs intoyou hand, so you could play them again in the round.Having a different ability per game definitely increased the replayability, as the abilities made different strategies more viable than others. If you were a player who ignored the standard cards throughout the whole game, you tended to be at a disadvantage compared to the players who used them frequently, especially if they used them at exactly the right time.
  4. Variants. As I usually do, I included the Mardi Gras Variant to the game, where instead of one ability song card, you played with three! This mode is actually my favorite, as it makes things really different. Having to choose which ability out of three is always difficult! I really enjoy playing like this, but when you’re still learning the game, one ability is enough, which is why the Mardi Gras Variant is a variant instead of the base way of playing.
  5. Solo Gameplay. With the solo, I always like to make sure there’s a good number of games you can play without getting bored. This is the first solo game where I’ve added both multiple different robot players to play against and several difficulty levels. When you’re playing, you get to choose between one of three robot players, each of which has it’s own strategy, and one of five difficulties. Once you can beat a particular robot player on the easy or medium difficulty, it’s your choice whether you want to try to win against that same player at a higher difficulty or to go against a different robot player.

All in all, I believe I ramped up replayability for Big Easy Busking without increasing the cost and while keeping it accessible to gamers of all levels. Check out the Kickstarter until June 6 and see if your family, friends, or coworkers find the game replayable!

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