NARRATIVE in Board Games - Board Game Design -

NARRATIVE in Board Games – Board Game Design

Views: 4470
Like: 223
Ever wonder how to add “NARRATIVE” to your game design?? This is my 3rd video talking about an adventure/exploration game, and I’m hoping to include A LOT of narrative. Watch to see how!

I discuss “Discover: Lands Unknown” here:

0:00 – Intro to Video Topic
1:14 – About My Game
2:41 – Other Games Worth Mentioning
5:31 – How My Game Will Create ‘Narrative’
6:49 – Example #1
7:36 – Example #2
9:06 – Example #3
10:36 – Wrapping Up


Music from
“Always Been a Dreamer” (Instrumental Version) – Staffan Carlen
“I Don’t Mind” (Instrumental Version) – Particle House


  1. I don't really care if a similar game has been created before. We all sit on top of giants. For that walkie talkie using nav, the person helping the hiker should receive IOU markers (say karma tokens from the owner). It's unclear if the game will be coop or competitive or semi, or you want to postpone the decision.Don't cling too much on 7th con, look at Eila and chapter 3, the mines, that's how you make a replayable grid done right.

  2. I know this is late to the party, but just wanted to add some games that have given me some of my favorite narrative experiences: Unsettled, Oath, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, Twilight Imperium 4th Edition, Call to Adventure, Nemesis, and Fog of Love. Love the videos so far! (Going chronologically through them at the moment.) Thanks for doing this. 🙂

  3. I'm so excited to see this video. You are awesome

  4. Woah, your production really deserves more attention, I was surprised to see your sub count. I'm rediscovering my passion for game design, and so I've stumbled upon this video. I'll definitely stick around and contribute to that sub count!Good luck with your game! Sounds like something my group of friends might be up for!

  5. You'll find out in playtesting that players don't like to lose stuff because they tried something bold. Many players are risk averse, they will spend ages preparing themselves until the odds are well in their favor. Losing items/resources works in Robinson because you're in it together. I enjoyed your video again. I'd love to see you work out the actual rules of the game. That walkie-talkie mechanic smells like 4 pages of rulebook to me 😈.

    Great show!

  6. Awesome video again! I love the idea of risk and reward with the mountain. I think I always engage most with a game if I know I could lose the strength of my position by taking that risk. If I know everything's gonna be alright and all the work I've done is totally safe, then everything becomes a bit meh. There's nothing to be afraid of anymore. And I don't see why board games should terrify people 😀
    A couple of games with Narrative come to mind and in many ways they couldn't be any more different than yours, but I'd say they all embrace the idea of exploration/discovery. I'm thinking Vast: The Mysterious Manor and (upcoming game) Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile by Leder Games. These games let you tell an incredible narrative, both in very different ways. With Vast, every player takes on a totally asymmetric role with a very specific mission. The inclusion or exclusion of certain characters then changes the story being told. One game, the story might be about the paladin rushing through this creepy house to find a giant spider and slay it, whilst avoiding shuffling skeletons. Another game, the skeletons might be turning on the Spider, whilst a sneaky little warlock skips between shadows casting spells and being mischievous. Giving each character asymmetric goals and methods, it makes it important which character is included, cos that changes how the story is told.
    With Oath…oh man. Oath is less about character asymmetry and more about choice asymmetry. All the characters (except one) start off the same pretty much. But the wealth of gameplay options open to you means that each player can run off and tell their own story. Wanna be a rebel an bring down the establishement? Great! Wanna submit to the Chancellor and work to succeed them at the end of their reign? Superb! Wanna have visions of the future and totally upend the entire world order? Cracking! Players can tell their own stories simply because there's so many options. And the way the game uses cards also tells stories. Cards represent different peoples, buildings and events that are placed at Sites in the world. Visiting those cards, exploiting them over the course of the game, how you choose to make use of these personalities, that tells a story about what kind of character you are too.
    Ok I'm done, for realsies.

  7. For heavy narrative I would look at games like Tainted Grail (which also has exploration) and This war of mine. For something lighter one may look at Everrains form of developing a narrative with character quirks and progressing sea events.

  8. Emergent narrative is a real tough cookie to crack 🙂 But sounds like you're figuring it out! If cards are going to be the main method of narrative delivery, you could think about adding certain flavour texts or something similar to the cards that create implicit narrative, or to emphasise the narrative you're building. Kind of like environmental storytelling in video games 🙂
    All this talk of hiking and exploration suddenly reminded me of a fantastic short PC game (2-4 hrs maybe?) about hiking, filled with exploration puzzles, you might be interested in checking out! Its called A Short Hike, a calm, cute and beautiful game about hiking up a mountain where you have to find feathers to increase your jumping and climbing abilities in order to make those steep climbs. I would describe it as Breath of the Wild meets Animal Crossing!

  9. Another great video Jesse! Narrative is one of my favorite aspects in games, yet it seems one of the hardest to achieve! Keep up the great work! ☺️

  10. Wow Jesse! Your videos up to now make me want to design a game too, the gears are really turning! 
    With every video you post, your game makes me think of Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated. Boy I had fun with the narrative and the discovery of the map in that game!
    If yours is anything like where my imagination is taking me when I listen to you describing it, you have a first day buyer here!

  11. I love Parks – and I am also a outdoors person. I hiked from Pen to Main on the AT when I was 13 🙂

  12. Great episode 4 – I am so proud of you 😀 – Keep it up!

  13. i love the narrative history of Reichbusters and then heroic moments the game have for player feel like a real hero in the game and for you freinds

  14. I love 7th Continent & am excited to get my Parks KS. I also love Forgotten Waters which has hex map exploration & rich book & app-assisted narrative. I'm excited to continue to follow your journey as your game continues to take full shape.

  15. Narrative, in my opinion, is so important in games.
    Take an abstract game like The Crew, which is just a trick taking game, cards that just have values, symbols, and colours. But they added a bit of narrative with the log book campaign you have to work through. It's a simple way to add narrative to an otherwise abstract game.
    So a game design like yours, that already has far more built in narrative, something like a log book or journal that players record their daily adventure. It could add to the narrative experience, and even be used as a mechanic to call back to. "If you did X within the last three days, than Y." I think it would fit into the theme of the game, logging your daily experiences on your wilderness adventure.

    When you were panning through your old games, I got so excited to see Thunder Road. I had both it and Dragon Lance. I have the fondest memories of Thunder Road, it was a fun game as a kid. No idea what happened to my copy, but it's a game I want again, and wish Restoration Games would redo. You seem a bit young to have bought the game at launch. 🙂 Myself, I'm a bit older.

  16. Vindication is a sandbox-y Euro game that uses hex tile exploration in it. I don't know too much about it cause I've never played, but it has an interesting theme and you might be able to find some inspirations there as well.

  17. Can you please put Theo in the next video? Asking for a friend. The friend is Theo.

  18. Great series so far! If you haven't played Root yet, I highly suggest playing as the Vagabond. By the time you're done, you've created an entire narrative story with the things you chose to do. This doesn't happen as much with the other factions. I would guess because, one, you have a more personal experience with just one unit, and two, your interactions with other players are more than just "attack". You can trade with them, become allied with then, betray them and start attacking, etc.

  19. Your videos are awesome, I have to give you a lot of credit for the quality of your videos. It is not an easy thing to achieve and the information provided is also very helpful, keep up the good work!

  20. There's a game that I've been on the fence on getting and it's the Hexplore series of games. In particular, the most recent one – the Sands of Shurax. Perhaps you can look into the differences with what you're going for in your game. Cheers!

  21. Awesome video! The mountains sound awesome! sound like they will create those memorable stories that I think all game designers want to create!

  22. thanks for another great video. My son wants to know if you can trade walkie talkies for Takis in the game? The feeling you described is similar to the game, Island of El Dorado where you explore with hex tiles and at the end of the game we always want to take a picture of the map of the board we discovered. I kind of hope you don't find any tech stuff on adventure cards while in the wild. maybe you could come across someone that would trade you a manufactured item for some fossil or valuable mushrooms you found? You could start out at a shop where you have money to spend and maybe the weight of your supplies affects you somehow. maybe you could return to the shop? in the wild there could be other natural cool stuff to find that could help you to improve your abilities. it would be REALLY cool if you learned survival stuff in the game such as when we went on a hike with a native american and he told us of all the plants we thought of as weeds but were edible or had medicinal value. and there's gotta be wild animals.. one of my kids plays parks just to collect the wild animal meeples. best wishes. this kind of game sounds great for our family

  23. Cool video! Breaking up a part of a story in a few modular events and decisions could deliver great replayability. Fantasy Flight's Star Wars Rebellion is great with that. Almost every card has a different condition, drawback and outcome but on their own they aren't too hard to 'undo' for the opposite side. It's when you chain 2 or maybe 3 events that you create little arcs composed of several "story chunks". What I learned from this is that it could be a good idea to create such singled out events that could create a mesh of interactions. Example: "you learned to navigate by the stars" comes in handy on every location. Except when it's storming or it is night. A storm also has effect on navigating through certain terrains pr might damage your hut. A damaged hut might influence your sleep quality or disable an item…. and so on. Meshing these things together create narrative and you have the feeling you are part of the same world when playing it. Drawing out such a mesh/map isn't only a good brainstorm exercise for your narrative, it will make nodes appear that will have great opportunity of being important in your game whiem making sense being tied together. Did that make sense? I just came up with that myself, inspired by your video and I'll need to try this myself now 🙂

  24. I love that you see parks action tiles as "linear". To me i really see it as a bit of rondell ( although it changes/grows on each of the revolutions).

  25. I love your walkie talkie communication mechanism. The way you've presented it it seems more like a way to "benefit" from others without their consent which doesn't feel thematic to how a walkie talkie works. If i have a walkie talkie you're only getting information from me that I'm willing to offer. This could be a great place to instill a bit of meaningful interaction. If the mechanism represented a way to trade and leverage out the areas you're at advantage to gain from another's advantage.

    This could be implemented such that perhaps there is a trade ratio that a communication could activate. Find a ratio of resilience to compass ratio (and include any other "resources") that are available. Thematically this could be seen as Player A giving some navigational info to Player B i.e. compass value in exchange Player B shares a story from his adventure bestowing some resilience to Player A. This should self balance as players don't want to give up more than they get.

  26. This is my first video of yours, and I dig it. I disagree with you on many points, I don’t think I’d enjoy your game, but you know how to pace a video and I could listen to you talk all day. I have two heavily narrative prototypes I’ve made, and I the people who’ve tried them love them. I’d love to show them to you. I don’t think your “minor inconvenience die” will work well with falling off cliffs, but prove me wrong.

  27. The most immersive narrative I’ve experienced was playing Legendary: Encounters (based on the Alien movies). It really feels like you’re on the ship fighting Aliens. Feels like you’re in the movie. You would have to see the movies before playing to fully appreciate it.

  28. Great stuff again, great looking video as well, as always.
    Can't wait the next videos 🙂

  29. search for cardboardedison and Board Game Design Lab, it might be helpful for your project

  30. Great stuff great quality. Really enjoying this content!!!!

  31. I've been similarly trying to create narrative in my own board game. Betrayal Legacy has a really fascinating narrative system. I'm not much for horror myself, but I was impressed by the unfolding narrative. The game is played in chapters and each chapter plays out differently based on what the players achieve and uncover (and what they don't). It did an amazing job with what I'd call "landmark moments" that felt like they changed the course of the game (and the story). At the beginning/end of a chapter, events played out narratively as a player would read from the book that came with it (based on choices made). Based on these same choices, some story arcs were never reached, leading to this feeling that your story was unique – which I loved. The big downfall of this kind of game, however, is that it's designed for a single play. Throughout play it instructs you to use stickers to claim an item for your family or destroy a card because that option is gone, etc. I like the idea that a game can be played repeatedly with countless results.

  32. I love these videos! Keep up the good work!

  33. loved the video! binging your channel which I just discovered an hour ago.
    for great narrative: I love how both Star Wars Outer Rim (and the Star Wars Unlock as well) put me right in the middle of the SW universe. great amounts of text in Outer Rim, but since the world is so familliar you just get SO EXCITED when you're playing Han and you got your hands on the Millennium Falcon. might be hard to design without an enormous Hollywood franchise behind your game though.
    another favourite is Tokaido. completely different, a bit like Parks in terms of movement, but you're constantly thinking of where you'd like to visit to complete your panorama, not because of the VP (ok, also because of the VP) but because you want that completed panorama, and some souvenirs to keep. there's no die, no cards to play, just a couple of coins you'd better hold on to so you can get your dinner at the end of the day. I love how every time I play it reminds me of my travels to Japan.

  34. Just came across this channel today and I’m hooked. Dead of Winter and Star Wars: imperial Assault come to mind when I think of board games high on the narrative element. Also Gloomhaven!

  35. So I've watched through all of your videos over the past few days, it's quite amazing how you keep up the quality and the atmosphere throughout them all! Looking forward to see more and to get my hands on that game some day!

    Speaking of games with narratives, Time Stories is a really narration-heavy game, that makes use of some quite unique mechanics to convey it (e.g. this: a card which tells you that once you turn it face up, you can only look at it for as long as you can hold your breath – to simulate diving down under water). Another great thing about that game is that it often is close to reality, in a way that you can be guided by your intuition – if a person seems to be lying, she probably is. If the game art depicts a person with good physique, he is probably dangerous to fight, and so on.

    And what I think is important here is to be consistent, to avoid giving players experiences that seem too random or contradicting to the game world as a whole.

  36. When it comes to Narrative I love Mage Knight or Spirit Island for the path they can take based on decisions

  37. I have to say your videos are amazing and very inspiring. Great production. I'm excited to follow along and see what game you will make.

  38. Thanks for another excellent video. I really like that you are stripping down the rules in favor for narrativ and ”baking” them in to he simplistic hexes.

  39. This reminds me of Minecraft. It's been a whole year and nobody has mentioned Minecraft. It's a video game, but it's all about exploring.

  40. you were not aware of Robinson Crusoe?
    I guess I can start making my board game then

  41. take Neuroshima Hex or Monolith Arena and try using their hexes for the demo hex map

  42. Speaking of design and uniqueness maybe you want to take a look at this newly found game called "Lagim Card Game". It's a strategic type of game wherein you need to defend your baryo against evil fiends. You may visit their FB page and website for more info.

  43. Hey! I’m really liking your game idea so far. I think having rolls that empower the players and punishments that aren’t too harsh is a smart move, given the feeling of the great outdoors that you’re trying to accomplish in your game. The walkie-talkie mechanic where you decide to keep the mutual benefit or discard it is a great touch. Overall it feels like your theme is coming together.

    I don’t know if this is something you’d be interested in pursuing, but one of the things about going out hiking that really sticks with me is the sounds you hear. The sounds of animals native to the area you’ve not heard before or a nearby stream you can’t see yet, etc, or just how sound travels when you’re high up and there are no trees about. Maybe you could incorporate a mechanic that has a narrative string to it that implies what sounds you hear on the next tile over, or have something like a background soundtrack to put on while playing (where key events might trigger once the players here specific noises. Like in Escape the Curse of the Temple, but not stressful. :P) Just food for thought!

    Lastly, I’ll be honest that watching your channel has actually made me consider making one that’s similar, but I’m worried about stealing from you. I’m a complete amateur so was considering documenting my journey from super rookie hobbyist designer through to hopefully creating a print and play or kickstarter. I guess I’m sorta seeking your opinion on if you are comfortable with someone else starting a channel similar to your own, and I totally understand if not.

    In any case, love your work and am really looking forward to seeing where your game goes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.