Why Trekking the World 2nd Edition is a redesign, not a refinement

Why Trekking the World 2nd Edition is a redesign, not a refinement

Nick Bentley Nick Bentley

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Today's post is about the approach we've taken to designing Trekking the World 2nd Edition, which we plan to Kickstart in July. Here's an early sketch of the cover we're working on for it:

Our first value is continuous improvement.
We only consider ourselves successful if we learn from each published game and refine our approach to make the next game better.
Here are the average Board Game Geek ratings for the games in our Trekking line, in the order they were published:
  • Trekking the National Parks - 7.0
  • Trekking the World - 7.1
  • Trekking through History - 7.7
Each game has been rated more highly than the last. You can see Trekking through History’s rating is a lot higher than the other two. It's our new benchmark for quality of play.
Our recent experience leads us to think we can improve Trekking the World 2nd edition, and our improvement principle demands we try.
When we first set out to create Trekking the World 2nd Edition, we took the usual path. We tried to refine the existing mechanisms. 
Our fine-tuning did seem to be improving the game, but it felt like not enough.
Moreover, we learned a design lesson from Trekking through History, but it was incompatible with the existing mechanisms of Trekking the World 1st Edition.
Here’s the lesson:

What we learned from Trekking through History

Trekking through History is often praised for how easy it is to play, relative to the strategy it harbors.
Why is it easy to play?
The biggest reason: each turn starts with the simple act of choosing a card, and that card tells you exactly what to do on that turn. This has three virtues:
  1. It makes understanding how to take a turn easy
  2. It allows the designer to build variety into what can happen on a turn, by building it into what the cards tell you to do.
  3. Because each card tells you to do several things, it creates trade-offs between those things that make evaluating your options tricky and nuanced.
Our improvement principle demands we try to act on this new understanding. So we asked: how can we use the same idea in Trekking the World 2nd Edition?
The problem is that this is a core mechanic: a mechanic that constrains all the other mechanics in a game.
To accommodate this new core mechanic, we’d have to overhaul much of Trekking the World. So we did.
In 1st Edition, you manage a hand of cards and the rules tell you how you can spend them. Now in 2nd edition, the hands are gone. Instead, you start your turn by choosing an itinerary card which tells you three things you’ll do on the current leg of your journey:
  1. move across the world map
  2. withdraw money from your bank account
  3. If you’re in a certain location, get one or two souvenirs

However, where you can move, the amount of money you withdraw, and the number and type of souvenirs you can get are all different from card to card, and balanced between one another. 

This creates variety and nuance, and also feels a little more thematic because an itinerary is a real thing in travel and an abstract hand of cards isn’t.

The risk in this approach

Our playtesting suggests it's having the effect we'd hoped. We’ve run many split-tests where players test both 1st edition and 2nd edition back-to-back, and we ask which they prefer and why. The vast majority have said they prefer 2nd Edition. 

However, the quality of a board game is not a function of just one design choice. It's a gestalt experience defined by hundreds of choices. By choosing to overhaul Trekking the World, we had to make a lot of new ones. That introduces uncertainty. I don’t think we can know whether we’ve cleared our quality bar until we publish it.

This is usually the case in game publishing, unfortunately.
In the meantime, we’ll post more about all the other choices in the coming weeks and months.

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