For a while now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of having a sort of blog to show how I develop board games. 99% of these games will only ever be played by my family, but it’s a fun, creative hobby that I like to explore when time allows, and it seems like the process might be interesting to some people out there.
I recently picked up a copy of Funko’s Five Nights at Freddy’s Night of Frights game for my son’s birthday.
We haven’t actually played it yet, but I’ve read the instructions and setup the board in anticipation of us trying it sometime soon. The basic concept is similar to the original video game, in that you’re one of the animatronics and you’re trying to break into the night watchmen’s office. In order to do that, you must collect items (i.e., ice cream cones, pizza slices) from around the board and turn them in to increase your scare factor on the round board (red is the highest). By increasing your scare factor, you get to draw more tokens from the take out bag (upper left corner of the image) to hopefully draw the Guard token (the one that looks like a police badge) to win the game. Of course there are obstacles and events beyond your control that would hinder or help you towards your goal.
It’s not a bad summation of the video game, though it does have it’s faults. The items the players collect aren’t actually useful in the game, they just become MacGuffins to force the players to move around the board. Also, you could literally win the game in the first round if you just happen to draw the Guard badge through dumb luck. That doesn’t make for a very fun experience.
So what would I do differently? How would I make a FNAF board game? I often get inspiration for board games from movies, video games, or, in this case, other board games. The thing is, that’s just the seed of the idea. I’m not setting out to make a FNAF game, but there are certain aspects of both the video game and the board game that would be great to incorporate into a game of my own design.
For example, the defining feature of the FNAF video game is the one-sided movement of the animatronics. The player has to constantly flip between security camera feeds in order to see where the murderous animatronics are and how close they are to infiltrating the guard station. I like that idea quite a bit. So how would you do that in a board game?
The most obvious solution would be to have the game be lopsided – one player (The Guard) vs every other player (The Animatronics). To go along with that, the game would include hidden movement. Instead of having the animatronic figures on the board at all times, the players coming after the guard would keep track of their location using their own personal, smaller version of the board. In the past this has been done with sheets of paper and small pencils, but nowadays, you’re more likely to see dry erase boards so they can be reused easily. Of course their movements would be hidden from the Guard, but also from the other players, because they’re playing against everyone else, too. You could make it cooperative for the Animatronics, but that would mean they’d need to be able to communicate in secret somehow, which just adds another level of difficulty to the gameplay. It’s easier – and, in my opinion, more dramatic – if they’re working against one another. Of course a huge factor to consider in these hidden movement games is the truthfulness of all the players. If someone’s just going to lie about where they are, the game breaks pretty easily. So, let’s just hope we have good sports who know how to lose…
To keep with the FNAF theme, the Guard would have an array of security cameras at their disposal – one in each room. Unfortunately, they only have two monitors in the control room, so they can only view two camera feeds at a time. This allows the Animatronics to move unseen unless the Guard deduces that they might be in a certain room and can turn on the camera to spot them.
If an Animatronic is caught on the video feed in a room, the Animatronic player would place their figure on the board in that room, and the Guard could then lock the door, preventing the Animatronic from moving until the door is unlocked. Unfortunately, the Guard can only remotely lock a certain number of doors at a time – 2 seems like a good number. Because there are two doors into the control room, they’ll want to be able to lock those doors when an opponent gets close, but that means potentially unlocking a door that frees an Animatronic, too. When a door containing an Animatronic is unlocked, the figure would then come off the board again and their movements would be hidden until they’re caught on camera again.
But this isn’t just a game of the Animatronics converging on the control room. We need a reason for the Animatronics to wander or else it’s too easy to keep track of them. Plus, it wouldn’t be very fun if all you had to do was walk directly to the control room and Game Over.
So, scattered around the board are tools the Animatronics can use to thwart the Guard’s attempts at tracking them. Spray paint could cover the lens of a camera. Wire cutters could prevent a door from being locked. Keycards that unlock doors could be found. Maybe the control room is locked by a 4-digit code, but you can’t unlock the door until you have all the digits. There are any number of reasons we can come up with for the Animatronics to wander, but it’s always best if the things they’re collecting are actually useful in some way. Of course, these hinderances are something the Guard can repair, but it would require they spend actions to fix the problems instead of locking doors and checking video feeds, which is what they’d rather be doing.
Now, as you might have guessed, this is rapidly becoming more complex than even the original FNAF video game. This is why FNAF is only the seed, but not the final concept for this new game. I’m still kicking around possible scenarios, so I’ll come back and write another entry soon when I feel like I have a better grasp on what this game could be.