That’s one of the questions on the Cards Against Humanity Tabletop Deathmatch entry form. Here’s how we answered it:
“We think Penny Press does a great job of blending fun mechanics with a cool, historical theme in a game that plays in less than an hour. It’s easy to learn, yet players have interesting decisions to make each turn.”
That’s a decent answer -- it covers a lot of ground without overstaying its welcome -- and it was good enough to get us into the final round of the Tabletop Deathmatch. But as CAH’s Max Temkin points out here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwOao2UvscE#t=221 at 3:36), this is as challenging and important a question any game designer will have to face.
Here’s why it’s important: There are tons of games out there, and it’s critical to know what sets your game apart from those that came before. In addition, it’s nice to be able to say it succinctly, because ‘what’s special about your game’ is a question you’ll get asked (in one form or another) many times over.
Here’s why it’s challenging: You can get lost in your game’s cool graphics and nifty mechanics and pretty player pieces. But those things aren’t what makes your game special. To give a good answer to the ‘special’ question, you really need to drill down to your game’s core to remember what makes it fun, interesting and worth coming back to.
If we were to apply again for this year’s Tabletop Deathmatch (we aren’t, but you can at www.tabletopdeathmatch.com), we’d probably tweak our answer to include what I’ve come to realize really does make our game special -- the feel of sending out reporters and putting together a newspaper in a historical setting.
It’s a work in progress, but this kind of question always is.