A Game Designer in Every Box

In the starry-eyed days of 1995 an increasingly notable company called Wizards of the Coast put out an innovative roleplaying game called Everway. It was widely lauded for its originality and the way that it moved away from the quantitative dice-based  mechanics of the rest of the medium. One of its most interesting mechanics was the way that it resolved actions using a Tarot-like “Fortune deck”. When an action was attempted, the gamemaster would determine the result by assessing how the meaning of a card and its orientation related to the situation.

Despite its critical acclaim, Everway was a commercial failure. Almost 15 years later you can still find very cheap copies of the boxed game. It was probably a surprising failure for the folks at Wizards, who had loved the game when they’d tried it in-house. But, years later, the employees have an explanation for the failure. “The problem,” they said, “is that we couldn’t include designer Jonathan Tweet in every box.” Not only had his originality and ability to think on his feet driven the fun of the in-house games, but he’d also set the tone of how the game should be played.

I think there’s an important lesson in here for board game designers too, one that struck me last week as I tried yet again to find the fun in Fifth Avenue. Continue reading