What makes a GREAT hook in board game design? - cutlassboardgame.com

What makes a GREAT hook in board game design?

Adam in Wales
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The concept of hooks is frequently discussed in game design circles, but the term is not necessarily familiar to players. So what exactly have I been banging on about all this time?

A hook is a feature which draws people in, piques their interest, and motivates them to stick around to learn more.

8 Comments

  1. Great video Adam. I think that the commenter is missing the point that as you stated…boardgames ARE products. And all products need to make money and in order to do that they need to draw in the consumer whether that be a film, a mobile phone, a boardgame or a shampoo! Boardgame enthusiasts aren't like fish but they are human and its natural to be drawn to something that has a unique 'hook'. However, the thing I liked most about what you said in this video is the fact that a hook for one person is a turn-off for another person.

  2. For me, I think that a hook is often related to either the theme or the components. In a game such as Saloon Tycoon, Gold Mine or Suburbia for example, it is related to both. I love the thick tiles and nuggets in Saloon Tycoon along with the Western theme. In Gold Mine, as someone that grew up in a mining town, I like the idea of building tunnels and the cool gold nuggets. City building has always been an interest of mine and playing games like Sim City growing up, the theme really comes through here. At the same time, I have the Collectors Edition of the game and the components are stellar. I really liked the examples you have provided here in the video as well. One day I'll get around to trying some of those games.

  3. I find myself getting hooked into games mostly by the art. Obviously this doesn't make the game good, but a game like Root wouldn't be the same without it's unique artistic take. Where as something like Spirit Island could take inspiration in that regard even though it has solid mechanics.

  4. I’m a writer and editor and I see so many parallels between book publishing and game publishing. You’re exactly right to draw that same comparison. I think what the commenter you referenced in the beginning of your video was (unknowingly/inelegantly) complaining about was the difference between a good hook and a bad one. A good hook is elegant and, while not invisible, unobtrusive. A bad hook is a pothole in the highway—jarring and attention grabbing in the worst way.

  5. I love hooks in games, also gizmos, or a feature peice. Thanks for the great videos Adam.

  6. 11 of my favourite "hooks"

    1. Arboretum – the pretty trees that contrast the absolutely barbaric, tense, decision-making

    2. The Duke – the anticipation of drawing a new unit and developing favourite units

    3. Sprawlopolis – the goal cards, and the sheer amount of GAME in 18 nearly-identical tiles

    4. Azul, Hive – the heavy, beautiful tiles that just make sense together

    5. Tussie-Mussie, Death Valley and Ragemore – the eye-catching art that wraps around the simple, tight gameplay

    6. Super Skill Pinball – marking and erasing points, and the ease of play over voice chat

    7. Coup – the sheer satisfaction of doing something you're not "supposed" to do

    8. Red7, Coup, The Duke – the fact that they "kill" more popular games that I like less, respectively Red7-vs-Uno, Coup-Mafia, Duke-Chess.

    9. Abalone – the intuitiveness of pushing around marbles, and the satisfying clonk of gaining one

    10. Antinomy, Shipwreck Arcana, Homeworlds – their intellectual depth and unforgivingness, the fact that although it takes more to bring them to the table, our brains will fry.

    11. Any Button Shy microgame – the fact that I can pack half a dozen games with me and deploy them whenever.

    Hooks are important, especially for people who have trouble bringing games to the table, and for solo gamers. Hooks are nothing more or less than enjoyable, semi-predictable patterns, and to claim to be "above that" is to deny how our brains, or how games… work.

  7. What you describe is very well known to me as it is one of the most complicated tasks to fulfill as a designer or publisher: to find a distinctive feature, that could be liked, that draws you to the game, a hook!

  8. Just know if you ever write a game design book I would be preordering that for sure…just sayin

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