Tag Archives: board game mechanisms

The Important Role Of Pay Off And Climax In Board Games

The Important Role Of Pay Off And Climax In Board Games

There are many different reasons why people play board games and various different parts of board games play which are enjoyed. People aren’t all the same, so they choose to play and choose what to play based on often quite different motives. Historically at least, the archetypal driver of board games play for families was the mother of the household who would want to use board games as a way to bring the family together. While much has changed in society in recent decades, this role of the matriarch of the household is still a strong driver of board games play. But even then, this is an over simplistic characterisation of what drives interest in playing board games. Everybody is different, and therefore they are motivated by a number of other factors, and their choices tend to be different based on the complexity of the human spirit and personality.

Having said all that, one fundamental perennial factor is that those games which deliver a pay off moment along with a rising climax seem to appeal to something universal in all of us. A classic example of a game driven by pay off and climax would be Jenga. Jenga is a game which tests dexterity and visual analysis of a structure, which doesn’t sound that exciting, but the climactic build up to the crescendo of the tower collapsing is a thoroughly compelling factor.

More broadly though, aside from just the sheer climax of a game like Jenga, many long-term classic games deliver a pure moment of someone winning and someone losing. There are many examples of board games that don’t have this of course, but those games which don’t have a big pay off tend to need a really strong and engaging theme or a really compelling and engaging social interaction built into the gameplay.

When you launch your next new board game , perhaps you could view it from the lens of whether it is delivering a compelling build up to a major event or win for one or even better all of the players! If we go back to the example of Jenga, the moment the tower collapses is a fairly shocking event for the person who touched the tower last, but for everyone else it is a moment of relief and ‘schadenfreude’ (meaning taking pleasure in the humiliation or suffering of other people!). There are many ways in which board game mechanisms can deliver this type of climactic event, and that is a long-term proven driver of commercially successful board games.


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