Friday, July 18, 2008

Elements of a good trivia game

With a slowing growing collection of trivia board games but not any actual gameplay, Dave and Devon conjecture about what makes a good trivia game.

Devon: Although factors such as gameplay and design are important issues, I think the most vital part is the trivia questions themselves.

Dave: I agree. When one plays a trivia game, it really comes down to the challenge of answering the questions. The game Super Quiz even omits the board and pieces, and highlights that as an advantage of being able to be played anywhere.

Devon: I like questions that you can almost answer right, but still has to put some thought into it.

Dave: Questions can't be too easy, but also can't be too obscure. That's the challenge of fact based questions. If it is too field specific, only specialists can answer. One example was the Chapters boardgame, where one really needs to be very well read, or work as a librarian, to get many of the questions. At least that's what I thought as someone who's not into fiction, literature or history. Likewise trivia based on sports or a particular media series (e.g. Friends, Lord of the Rings) have very segmented appeal -- you have to like both the topic and playing trivia.

Devon: The generation based questions have a similar disadvantage. If you grew up during that era, then you can relate to many of the questions. But everyone else would be completely stumped. This almost shows that it is difficult to have a trivia game that appeals to the general population.

Dave: There are several things that help with alleviating the difficulty of the questions. One is to put hints in the question itself to help trigger your memory. Jeopardy does a good job of that. Some games split questions into easy and hard categories, which I think is a nice way too. Another way is to use multiple choice questions. And as for the problem of having to score in every category, I saw a game where you have to get N credits, where each category is limited to a max of 2 or 3 credits. This is a nice way to overcome being stronger in some categories and weaker in others.

Devon: There's also brain teaser type of questions used in Mindtrap and Wit's End. They are more problem solving oriented rather than fact oriented. That transcends the generation and knowledge issues, but could put-off those who hate problem solving.

Dave: Gameplay also plays a minor role in enjoying the game. TP allows another turn when a correct answer is given, which allows one person extended play while others are just waiting. One way to overcome that is to stop the turn when a wedge is obtained.

Devon: Interestingly, the game In Pursuit, by the makers of Trivia Pursuit, does away with the wedges altogether. Instead, it is a race by 2 teams, but at the end only the "team leader" will win. On your turn, you ask the question to the other team, and one team will move ahead depending on the correctness of the ansewr. This speeds up gameplay, keeps more people involved, and makes for a good mix of teamwork and an internal race.

Dave: The games Psychologizer and TP Bet You Know It have you predicting other player's guess, but uses a wager amount to reflect the confidence of your answer. That adds an interesting element to the voting process.

Devon: And the game Numaro has all numeric answers, and everyone makes a guess. The person who is closest to move ahead. This is good because you can be way off, but as long as you are closer you still have a chance.

Dave: As with game design and play testing, one has to play the game to get a feel to see if the rules work out as well as they seem on paper.