What do Prototypes Prototype? – Island Survival

For our game, my group will be working on an island survival board game where players are given special items that they use to survive. At times, the island may cause them problems, and at times, players may cause them problems. This game could have a lot of interesting, but complicated mechanics, so there are a variety of questions to be answered via prototyping!

Question 1: Does the player enjoy the aesthetic/narrative theme of the game?
This is important question because it shapes the physical design of the board as well as the narrative elements of the game. To prototype this, I would sketch out a few versions of the board with different themes (Polynesian island survival, magic fantasy survival, 1600s ship stranded at sea, etc). My guess is that 1600s ship stranded on an island will be most popular.

Question 2: Does the player enjoy sacrificing other players for personal gain?
One of the fundamental mechanics we want to explore is combative player dynamics. Specifically, we think it would be fun if players occasionally had to sacrifice other players to ensure their own survival. To prototype this, I would create a little mini-game similar to a zero-sum game. Players are given a choice: sacrifice another player and be guaranteed life, or allow the other player to live and maybe die OR maybe get a reward. I suspect in this format, people will not enjoy sacrificing other players because the stakes are too low to warrant sacrifices.

Question 3: How many players is appropriate?
We need to determine the right number of players for any game, but it is especially important for party games. To test this, I would create a small game that requires players to share their inventory items to complete communal tasks, like building a hut or starting a fire. I would test with 4, 6, and 8 players to see which works the best and balances fun and speed. I think 4-6 will be the optimal number.

Question 4: How many die should the players use to move?
The number of die determines the speed at which players move across our board. This can affect the pace of the game, so it is a very important question to ask. To test this, I would run different experiments with players where I give them 1d6, 2d6, and 1d8. Which works best depends upon the size of the board, but I suspect 1d8 will work best. It has an average roll of 4.5, which I think gives players enough mobility to traverse the island relatively quickly while also limiting their movement speed somewhat.

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