One board gaming session stands out as the greatest I ever had. Why? I’ve played board games countless time. I’ve forgotten most of my board game sessions. What made that time different—and what does it have to do with storytelling?
This session stands out for the same reasons some movies become blockbusters and some novels become bestsellers.
The board game was Shadowhunters. In the game, there’s a Hunter team, a Shadow team, and neutral characters who each have their own unique win condition. Three outcomes are possible: Hunters win, Shadows win, or a neutral win forces both Hunters and Shadows to lose. Sometimes neutrals can win with Hunters or Shadows, but Hunter victory and Shadow victory are mutually exclusive. Therefore, the Hunters mostly try to make the Shadows lose, and the Shadows mostly try to make the Hunters lose, and the neutrals do their own weird things which interfere with both Hunters and Shadows.
Can you tell that the neutral characters make this game re-playable? When it’s only Hunters vs. Shadows—which the rules permit—the strategies are simple and the game becomes repetitive after a few sessions. The neutrals make it so that a strategy which worked once might fail the next time.
It’s a hidden role game, so players known their own identities, but not other players’. A player may choose to reveal their identity, a player’s death reveals their identity, and some game mechanisms force partial reveals. Since forcing a full reveal is extremely difficult, players must guess each other’s identities based on behavior.
In this session, I was a Shadow. And the other two Shadows died within two rounds.Continue reading