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.


  1. In the Video Game Champion we opted for the Themathic Hook:Be a kid in the 90's trying to be the Video Game Champion of your neighborhood.This phrase alone captures the attention of the player, who generraly wants to know more, then, we expands the hook with more details (as writen in the manual, and here below), and we say that, showing the components in the table, that ilustrate all of these thematics appeals. "You and your friends will be children living in the early 1990s dividing your attention between: getting money to have fun, studying, buying magazines, renting video games, begging you parents for video games as presents and, finally, playing as much as you can."After that, the player generally has so curious to see how the game delivers that experience that he sits the table to listen the rules and play the game. So, the hook is not to cheat the player, but do resume all that 90 minutes experience in a single concept, to draw his interest.So he can see if he's interested in the game in the few seconds he's willing to invest initially.This way, a hook is not only good for the designer, but for the player too, because in that way we can respect his time.(Thanks for another great video, Adam.)

  2. The hook is the most important part to get someone interested. It would be ignorant to think otherwise

  3. I do feel like this video should be called 'What is a Hook' rather than 'What makes a great hook?', it doesn't seem to approach the latter subject much at all.

  4. As a player I am offended by the idea of a hook, game designers should pour years of their life and millions of dollars of capital into making random games which may or may not sell well or be entertaining for players. Game studios should be rolling the dice and gambling their livelihoods away to make products which I might see once, say "meh" and then move on completely. This is the way things ought to be.Obviously sarcastic, but it is surprising how much one has to clarify these things.

  5. 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.

  6. Great stuff. Many thanks. I'd add that what can be a hook tempting you to make a purchase can be replaced by another hook that makes you keep it. Jaws was a theme buy for me as well, but it's also one we've played a fair bit because of the mechanisms (plus it's a mindlessly fun slug fest). It's also got something I admire in games, namely simultaneous action reveals. When the shark player is attacking the boat, they pick (ie., commit to) a space (A, B or C) but don't reveal it until the human players show where they're going, and that's where the shark surfaces. To me, that's a hook that keeps me playing because it prevents the shark player deciding where to surface based on knowing where the players will be.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

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

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