I Have a Board Game Idea – Now What? Part 44: Lore – Necessity or Complete Waste of Time?

Welcome back! I hope you had a great week.

Shortly after I hired Jonathan to be the artist for The Hackers Guild, he asked me a question that I hadn’t even considered. He wanted to know the story behind the game. So I sat down, and made up the story behind The Hackers Guild in about 20 minutes. Since then, I’ve followed a number of different board game projects, all with varying levels of lore behind them. So this got me wondering about the place that lore and back story really has in game design. Is it absolutely necessary, or simply a waste of time. In this week’s post we are going to try and answer that question.

When is lore a good thing?

Some level of lore and back story is always going to resonate with players. It gives them a reason to care about the pieces of wood, plastic, and cardboard they are going to spend the next while playing with. It gives the players an opportunity to immerse themselves in a different reality, even if only for a short period of time. Lore is especially useful when trying to create a universe for multiple games and/or products, or when working with an existing IP. It can also be a great marketing tool, allowing your to capture and maintain people’s attention leading up to campaign launch or release date. People are naturally curious and like to understand the why’s and how’s of the lives behind the characters they are interacting with.

When can lore be a bad thing?

I don’t know that lore will ever be a “bad” thing, but there are certainly going to be times where any time and effort put into the lore will mostly go unnoticed. The other challenge with lore is finding the best way to introduce it to the players of your game. If a big wall of text is going to detract from the purpose of the asset, that is a problem. Also some players and designers are naturally mechanics first, and will be less interested in the lore, where others are all about the theme and really get into it, which is where investing time into some lore can be well worth it. I think the best solution is to find ways to ensure the mechanics and theme complement each other well, with some nods to the world and lore of the game in the rule book, online, or in other marketing materials.

So is lore a necessity or a complete waste of time? The answer, like to so many other questions in game design, is going to be it depends. Some games like Eldritch Horror need the lore, where as games like Robo Rally aren’t nearly as dependent, though a little more might have been beneficial. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you have a suggestion for a future blog post topic, let me know. Choosing what to write about each week can really be a struggle. Until next time, happy designing.

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