Board game analysis:

Mafia games, you must be very familiar with, “Mafia”, “Legends of the Three Kingdoms Card game”, “werewolf” and so on, even if you have not played these games, you have heard or seen others play.
Mafia games are well designed, but where is it?
You know, there are thousands of board games on the market, why Mafia games are most loved by the people and become synonymous with board games?

To sum up, Mafia games mainly do three things right:
First, it is extremely simple to play and has strong environmental adaptability.
Second, the creative introduction of lies and detection factors.
Third, random team competition and cooperative design.
Next, let’s take a look at them one by one.

1. When designing offline interactive products, we must make full use of the unique characteristics of offline social interaction, attach importance to the use of holographic information, and provide more immersion in order to be easy to succeed.

First of all, simple.
Most board games need props. Standard board games like Monopoly generally require all kinds of cards, maps, chess pieces, dice and so on. Dungeons and Dragons also have a more complicated whole manual!
No matter how simple a board game is, there must be pieces or playing cards, right?
You still need leverage to play Texas hold’em.
Is there a game that can be played empty-handed on the spur of the moment?
Hardly any.
But Mafia games, almost do not need any props, in an unprepared environment, you can start playing at any time, or even do not need playing cards, just write a few notes to use.

In addition, the vast majority of board games require a fixed number of 2–4 people, and the rules of the game will become invalid when there are too many people.
Mafia games are highly adaptable and can support a variety of people, especially many people to play together.
In the indoor environment, a large number of people to participate in entertainment, but also can start the game at any time, it has almost become the only best choice.

2. Making full use of the design of the basic human nature can increase the attractiveness and vitality of the product.

Second, the core of this kind of game, and also one of the most attractive points of this kind of game, is that it creatively adds the elements of “lie” and “detection”.

In all the Mafia games we are familiar with, without exception, they are full of lies and routines, and if you want to win, you have to be able to make up a decent set of lies.
In the case of multi-person interaction, it is useless to rely on your own boasting and lying. You also need to be able to lie realistically, deceive others, and at the same time send true messages to your teammates. You also have to constantly judge whether what other people are saying is true or false through a variety of subtle messages and other people’s verbal logic, and detect everyone’s true role.
It can be said that the players who can eventually beat all their opponents will play the whole game in the world of “lies” and “detection”.

So why are Mafia games so attractive with “lie” and “detection” elements?
This is because “lie” and “detection” are the underlying elements of human nature, just like “love” and “death” are the eternal themes of the film and television industry.

In ancient times, human survival resources are extremely limited, the natural environment and group social environment are extremely cruel, how can you survive?
Of course you have to use the skill of lying.
Primatologist Richard Byrne of the University of St Andrews in the UK has found that some monkeys and orangutans can deceive each other for their own good.
For example, in order to avoid angering the strongest leaders, male gorillas will secretly mate with female orangutans; some monkeys will pretend to be uninterested in food in order to mislead other monkeys so that they can steal food unexpectedly.
Monkeys deceive each other in the same way as people.

Not only adults but also children are good liars.
The Children’s Institute of the University of Toronto, Canada, which won the Pineapple Science Award for Psychology, studied 1200 children and teenagers between the ages of 2 and 17. The study found that 2% of 2-year-olds had learned to lie, 50% of 3-year-olds were dishonest, and nearly 90% of 4-year-olds were deceiving.
The older the age, the higher the proportion of liars. By the age of 12, almost every child will lie, and even conclude that “children who lie earlier are smarter.”
Is this conclusion subversive enough?

The ability corresponding to “lies” is naturally the skill of “detection”. It is conceivable that if a person is unable to detect other people’s lies, his living condition may be worse than that of a person who does not have the ability to lie. So this pair of abilities are naturally in the underlying human genes at the same time.
Let’s see how many of us love detective stories and watch detective dramas, and how many of us like the spy agents in Hollywood blockbusters, those intelligent thieves who can avoid being hunted by master detectives with superb “lies”, and great detectives who can catch the smartest thieves with superb “detection” means, which have been loved by the broad masses of people for centuries.
Watching their wits and bravery can directly stimulate everyone’s dopamine.

In fact, Mafia’s ancestor, the Mafia, came from real-life espionage.
In 1980, on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet regime, the whole Soviet Union was full of NATO spies, who fanned the flames of secession in the city, and even there were a large number of defected double agents within the Soviet Union’s own intelligence agency, the KGB.
What should we do if we are understaffed?
The intelligence agencies, which could not recruit large numbers of people openly, hoped to solve this problem by rapidly improving the quality of their agents, so they found a psychology professor named Demetri. he was invited to develop a series of training measures to improve the agents’ ability to lie.
With the step-by-step improvement of Professor Demetrius, these training measures have developed from language ability training, brain training, body language training to the final multiplayer game training.
Of course, this method did not stop the final collapse of the Soviet Union, but Professor Demetri turned his training in lying and detection into a game, a simplified version of the game called the Mafia, and secretly brought it into the college classroom.
The game itself is a simulation game invented to train real spies!
Through this game, we can train the students’ real survival skills in advance and reduce the sacrifice.

Yes, “Lie” and “detection” do make Mafia games more attractive, but are “lie” and “detection” elements created only by Mafia games?
Of course not. In 1948, the game “Clue” created by Anthony Pratt, a lawyer and clerk in Birmingham, England, was more than 40 years earlier than the Soviet professor.
But in all similar games, if you want to detect lies, you must get clues from a given script or prop, in other words, it has been determined.
But Mafia games are different, all lies come from the impromptu performance of the participants at the scene, to crack the lie, you must fully observe any tiny information of other players, any micro-expression during the table, a small movement, such as everyone’s facial expression, tone, tone, face, eyes, body movements, etc., become important.
Can become the core event that changes the game, this kind of omni-directional micro-information, can almost never be copied online by electronic means.
In the offline environment, in addition to chess and card rooms and Internet cafes, it is not convenient for ordinary families to accommodate so many people that new business type, who is able to open an offline business like “board game bar” for this kind of games, is for this reason.

After talking about the elements of “lie” and “detection”, let’s take a look at the third point that stands out in Mafia games: in the design of Mafia games, it is also a pioneering work to add a “random team competition” element.
It introduces random hidden information into the core team elements of the game.

For the vast majority of traditional competitive games, who is the teammate and who is the enemy is often the core information of the game. Long before the start of the game, everyone has stipulated the team ownership relationship. Even if there is some random or confidential information before the start of the game, it will not be kept secret to the extent that “even in the course of the game, you do not know who is the teammate and who is the opponent”?
Under the setting of “Mafia”, it skillfully makes use of the design of randomly assigned roles and fully hidden information, so that you have been unable to identify your enemies and teammates throughout the game, and you dare not trust even the people you know best — in the last round, the person who was your close comrade-in-arms, this may be the killer who sent you to the grave.
And the killer who was bent on killing you in the last round may become the one who is focused on protecting your partner, or the key person you want to protect.
This brings novel fun that other games rarely enjoy, and greatly increases the repeatability of the game.
Can you cite any other similar cases of this design?
To be honest, from this point of view, it is difficult for the entire game industry to find other cases.
I think this is the setting of all kinds of bizarre detective dramas, and it also brings a certain special stimulating effect of offline play, which is another key point of the success of this kind of game.

Why is “Werewolf” so popular?

All right, after talking about Mafia like games, next, I want to talk to you about “Werewolf”. Why?
Because Werewolf has taken a step forward on the basis of the basic way of playing Mafia games, it has made some innovations, and these innovations have made it beat all other Mafia games and become the classic representative of Mafia games. How does it do that?
To sum up, there are two main points:
First, add a reasonable number of roles.
Second, support more variants that are easy to understand and spread.

Let’s look at the first point first.
“Werewolf” and other Mafia games, “Legends of the Three Kingdoms Card game” is more complex, adding a variety of cards and packages, too many too complex.
How does it compare with the traditional “Mafia”?
“Werewolf” is easier to use than “Mafia”, especially for novice players.
Note that this time I’m talking about “easy”, not “simplified”.
“Werewolf” adds more role identities than “Mafia”.
Don’t think that adding character identity makes the game more complex, which not only lowers the barriers to entry, but also brings two benefits.

The first advantage is to make it more interesting than logical. For novice players, if you have the opportunity to experience more characters, you can keep the fun for a longer time.
The second is to weaken teamwork and highlight personal heroism.
In “Werewolf”, personal factors can control the overall situation of the game.
In other words, for a skilled person, it gives you enough room to show off, especially in the presence of a girl, which boy doesn’t want to show off in front of a girl?
On the other hand, if you don’t like the role you are assigned to, or if you want to have a rest when you are tired, you can also choose to relax. The atmosphere of the whole game is relatively more relaxed.
But “Mafia” is different, it is a team game from beginning to end, everyone in the team has a greater responsibility on their shoulders, and no one can take it easy.
If you don’t perform well, it will directly affect the rest of the team, and you will be much more likely to be scolded if you lose.
Under such a great pressure of the game, for new players, being blamed by veterans for several times may make them choose to give up directly.

Mafia games are easy to use, easy to understand, “lie” and “detection”, which can stimulate dopamine, and so on.
That’s why variety shows choose “Werewolf” instead of “Mafia”.
It also has a lot to do with the identity of the characters in Werewolf.
For the audience, this can choose more perspectives, watching points will be more, suspense will also be greater, but also more suitable for individual stars show, give full play to the star halo.
But “Mafia” a total of police, civilians, killers three perspectives, it is easy to guess the identity of each guest, it will not be exciting enough.
In terms of play, “Werewolf” is a game that can reveal your identity, unlike “Mafia”, where you have to hide your identity and even pretend to fake your identity in front of others.
“Werewolf” can directly sit down the rules of identity, and it is easier for new players to get the game logic. after all, no one knows all kinds of game routines in the first place.
In variety shows, all the stars invited to participate in the show have different levels. Some stars may have played it, and some stars have not, and it is impossible for the crew to spend a lot of time on game training for each star. After all, variety shows are only entertainment shows, so why not choose “Werewolf”, which is relatively more entertaining and more friendly to novice players?

…so that “Werewolf” has become a trend of entertainment.
If you don’t play “Werewolf”, you are out of fashion.
Along with the offline board game bar market is also on the rise again.
What is different from before is that now we just call it “Werewolf bar”!
And “Werewolf bar” is different from the previous board game bar. In order to set off the game atmosphere, the board game bar will be decorated according to the game background of “Werewolf”, using hue to match the mysterious suspense of “Werewolf”. Everyone can even wear a variety of masks to increase the difficulty of the game.
Game joint variety, variety back-feed games, online drive offline, offline and then online, it is such a cycle linkage, so that “Werewolf” to the peak, not only gain a large number of users, but also become popular in the capital market.
Of course, all this has a lot to do with the fact that “Werewolf” is a public IP, so you don’t have to pay any licensing fees, and anyone can change the rules slightly to add the game to their own show.

The second reason Werewolf is more successful than other Mafia models is that it supports more variants of the game.
In the earliest version of the “Werewolf” game, the most commonly used characters are werewolves, villagers, hunters, witches and prophets. After a variety of spontaneous evolution, players have added a variety of new characters, such as Wolf King, Demon Hunter, and so on, along with a variety of new ways of playing the game, bringing a rich sense of freshness to the game and adapting to different levels and pursuits of different people.
It increases the vitality of the game and expands the life of the game.

It has to be said that the core reason why players have more ability to spontaneously create variants here than the traditional “Mafia” and have more fun lies in the IP used by “Werewolf”: several other Mafia games, whether they are “mafia”, “Cops and Robbers” or “Legends of the Three Kingdoms Card game”, all use relatively realistic background settings, while the background of “Werewolf” is integrated with magic elements.
This greatly broadens the way of thinking for game designers, in addition to maintaining the basic roles of easily identifiable good and bad guys, various unrealistic elements, as well as corresponding rules, are more likely to be added into the wild. It’s not against the rules to expand further.
This is why when we play games, we like to use more surreal themes such as magic, fantasy, fairy, science fiction and so on, while history and realism use less.
Of course, hard science fiction requires too many scientific principles, and in most cases it is not the first choice. The popularity of Star Wars has a lot to do with the addition of magic elements to it, and so is Avatar.

Why is it so hard to escape the cold fate of being popular for a while every time a new board game appears?

After talking about Werewolf’s innovation of Mafia games, let’s talk about another interesting problem of Mafia games: for other board games, either it is not hit, or there is no successor to a popular game, but as the most popular board game, Mafia games always come out one after another, but it is difficult to escape the fate of being hit and cool for a while.
Not only the “Mafia” and “Legends of the Three Kingdoms Card game” of that year, but also the “Werewolf”, which seem to be popular for a while?
Do you still have those popular “Werewolf bars” offline around you?
Like the last board game bar boom, most of them closed down and disappeared, right?

First of all, from the game design point of view, in my cognitive framework, I refined it into a “UGC detective drama” model.
Although it has the attribute of multiplayer competitive game, the attribute of role-playing in it is deep.
People like to play it or because we like to watch detective dramas determined by nature, but the detective dramas we usually watch are all PGC, which is an one-way communication mode written by professional writers for us to appreciate, while killing board games has created a UGC tool template that users can create their own detective dramas, which allows players to create a new detective drama in each game under the rule system designed by it.
Such benefits are obviously random and changeable, highly repeatable, and do not need endless professional content production teams, but at the same time, the problem is that the script is too routine, a story is told repeatedly, after all, the randomness is limited, the surprise is limited, the number of repetition is more, the fun will be reduced.
So this kind of game will appear, every time, a new theme appears, it will be popular for a period of time.
Because the new script brings new routines, but also brings new fun and freshness, but this freshness can only last for a limited period of time.
The reason why “Werewolf” has been popular for a long time is also related to its many variants and easy to understand, but in the final analysis, this story, which relies too much on the same template, will get tired of telling it too many times.
Role-playing is not only the core success point of this kind of game, but also its core limiting element.

3. When designing the rules of the multiplayer game, we must pay attention to avoid creating a “chain of disdain” between players, so as to avoid the loss of players.

It is also worth mentioning that this game model also has a big flaw, that is, it is too easy to form a “disdain chain”.
From the perspective of “exit cost” management, you must pay attention to this when designing a multiplayer game. if you design rules, skilled people must feel the benefits of their high skills. but you must also control the frustration that people with average skills are defeated.
It is necessary to use a variety of methods, such as randomness and social team formation, to give less skillful people the chance to win or participate in victory occasionally, so as to reduce the phenomenon of forcing players to withdraw from the game, so as to improve the retention rate of the game.
However, games that are easy to form a “disdain chain” will make highly skilled players naturally look down on and even resent other players, which may lead to a higher turnover rate.
Because the formation of teams in this game is random, there are no fixed teammates, and randomness is only reflected in the initial hidden identity, so in a team, people with high skills gradually form an absolute suppression of people with low skills, while players with low skills can not stand being squeezed and complained, often regardless of the situation before the situation is clear.
Do not hesitate to shoot the strongest person in the team first, and finally, it is conceivable that both types of players are under pressure to quit.
Any game design that is easy to form a “disdain chain” is generally difficult to manage the player’s “exit cost”, which is a more common rule.

How will Mafia games develop in the future?

All right, after analyzing why Mafia games are so awesome, how “Werewolf” stands out, and why Mafia games can only be popular for a while, let’s try to do a few small analyses of the future trend of these games:
The first concern is that because of the role-playing and exclusive features like detective dramas, these games are more suitable for professional creators than other types of games, and the power of PGC will play a role in this category for a long time.
At present, there is a new Mafia board game that has become more popular and relies more on professional creators, called “live action role playing”, and the speed of development should not be underestimated.
This is a form of game in which immersion is better than “Legends of the Three Kingdoms Card game” and “Werewolf”.

This “live action role playing” template is a PGC detective drama game in which several people come together to decrypt the crime-solving game.
Because the plot and props of this script are carefully professionally designed, it can give full play to the advantages of professional production team and professional actors, and is more suitable for viewing, so it was adopted by variety shows earlier.
It is too difficult to play this kind of game offline, so it is more difficult to spread, and not many people have played it, but I have seen that all the people who have really played in the top board games bar that still exist today are all exclamatory and immediately addicted, because the sense of immersion of this game can definitely reach the height of another world.

This is a game that can make you addicted to acting. You don’t need any professional acting training. Anyone can play it with the help of professional scripts, props and organizers.
The process and results of the game will vary with the performance of each actor, absolutely with a sense of play, immersive, exciting.
In China, “live action role playing” is still elementary, in fact, there is still a lot of room to play. There are actually many popular LARP abroad, while the current domestic popular scripts are just a drop in the bucket.
If the domestic “live action role playing” is still playing version 1.0, foreigners’ LARP has already reached version 4.0 or 5.0.
When we were still working with several people to solve the case in the room, people in developed countries already had thousands of people renting a park, setting up tents, being able to play for a whole week, or just playing with one script.
You can imagine that one morning in the wild, when the sun had just risen, there were hundreds of people confronting each other on the hillside, each dressed in strange clothes, shouting “for the Alliance” and “for the Horde”. What was it like?
Live action role playing materialize the elements of literary works, film and television dramas and electronic games.

Not long ago, the Imperial Palace released a book to solve riddles, 《谜宫·如意琳琅图集》, which has raised more than 20 million through crowdfunding alone, which is just a book.

If we want to deeply understand the existence and future of offline modern board games, we must first be able to deeply understand the key factor of immersion.

4. Products that can give full play to users’ spontaneous creative ability and desire will be of great help to the vitality of the products.

Although PGC has its strong advantages, it is difficult to create content, low output and repeatability, and too troublesome to use, so it is difficult to spread.
But after all, its creativity is not as good as that of the broad masses of the people.

About the UGC, game industry has always been this rule, often in order to ensure the safety of investment, slowly to infinitely increase investment, reduce risk, in the creative direction of the road is narrower and narrower, in the unknown small place, will emerge a talented player, can rely on their own efforts to create a new category.
Any game that can implant the UGC mechanism into the underlying mechanism at the beginning of the design has a strong vitality, and the Mafia game is an example of this ability.
Players’ offline social needs and real immersion needs have their unique characteristics that will never disappear and will not be completely replaced by online games. Ordinary people can not only be satisfied with watching variety shows.
This unique, simple, free and interesting Mafia game that allows players to High themselves will still surpass all other kinds of board games and be caught by players again and again.
My prediction is that in the evolution of players’ spontaneous play, new story templates will emerge from time to time, and every once in a while, new variants will trigger a short-term trend.
Although the vast majority of similar games will follow similar short-lived old routines, it can not be ruled out that a new variant will break out, solve the underlying defects of this kind of games, and become a variety with a longer life cycle.
That’s the charm of UGC.

5. Dig deep into the product attributes, cross-industry cooperation, cross-border linkage can bring unexpected effects.

I also have an immature idea, which is about the whole category of board games, that is, the expansion of the model of “board games + X”.
Let’s talk about the mode of combining with another kind of game.

in my opinion, the cross-border ability of board games is the strongest of all game categories. Board games can integrate not only the ways of other games, but even other industries, such as variety shows. There are also creative cross-border linkages, which can also be adjusted according to the needs of the industry, for example, can we make “board games + parent-child” and “board games + education”?
Aren’t there a lot of parents complaining that their children are addicted to mobile phones all day?
Many parents have no time to spend time with their children, and occasionally they can’t figure out what activities to do with their children. Why not try to play board games with their children?
Can not only enhance the relationship between each other, but also through table games to exercise children’s many abilities, such as logic, interaction, coordination, etc., learn a lot of knowledge in happiness, even if it is just for fun, at least protect the children’s eyesight, right?
In fact, the same is true for adults, we can in turn infiltrate the model of board games into the education and training of various industries, and even our daily life, in the form of games to help us learn knowledge more easily and happily, or cultivate and train a certain ability, is it not more effective than boring classroom teaching?




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