Andy Hopwood explores some of the nuances of his latest game, Daring Dustbunnies, and how it makes players laugh, think and swear in equal measure.
Daring Dustbunnies is a game that features push-your-luck card play and hidden identities set in a world beneath the sofa as delightful creatures dare the dangers of the vacuum cleaner. Closest (without being sucked up the tube) at the end of the round wins gold!
“There are moments in games when you cannot help but let yourself go. Laughing, thinking and swearing is why I play games, it helps me to relax, especially if I can do them all at once. So when I design games I look for the mechanics that inspire those moments and then try to pack them into a box with the ideal components and rules.”
So how does Daring Dustbunnies do this?
Laugh - The dustbunnies are creatures invented by me and given form by the artistic talents of Lloyd Ash Pyne, they live under the sofa and watch our TV’s. Each has a special characteristic but they all create a sense of mischief. When the owner of the house gets the vacuum out it’s competition time! They magically animate balls of fluff and dare to get as close as they can without being sucked in. It’s delightful, it’s cheerful, and it makes you smile. Additionally, one of the core mechanics of the game is hidden identities. There is an inherent tension that goes with this, and tension leads to relief or disaster. In the relative safety of a game setting both of these usually manifest themselves as laughter. Tricking other players, or being tricked, is simply hilarious.
Think - Don’t be fooled by the charming artwork and vibrant colour scheme. Every turn you find yourself making meaningful decisions and I am a firm believer that it is simple choices with complex consequences that make good games great. In every single game I have witnessed of Daring Dustbunnies people have made sub-optimal choices based on what their hidden identity is. To the trained eye these choices become flags and they can then be subverted to throw people off the scent. The subtle mis-directions required make this a very socially intelligent game which will reward the smarter player and punish those that depend on blind luck, although blind luck can work just often enough to make it a tempting prospect.
Swear - I said earlier that tension is often resolved by laughter, but tension also comes hand in hand with frustration, and it inspires calculation and manipulation. When you have that tiger by the tail and you are desperately trying to figure out the best way to extricate yourself the challenge can be the most enjoyable part of any game. This is when you hear players’ howls of frustration, groans of realisation or other such unintentional noises. These are some of my favourite moments, when I feel I have done my job as a designer.
So for me, and for my 300+ playtesters, Daring Dustbunnies has ticked the boxes to make it as a great game, in the words of Mike Barnes from Who Dares Rolls, “It’s an engine designed for fun”.
Take a look at the kickstarter page here - www.kickstarter.com/projects/hopwoodgames/daring-dustbunnies-the-board-game