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Board Game Design Day: "King Me": A Defense of King-Making in Board Game Design

Cole Wehrle  (Game Designer, Leder Games)

Location: Room 3005, West Hall

Date: Monday, March 18

Time: 11:20 am - 12:20 pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Summits - Get your pass now!

Topic: Design

Format: Tutorial

Tutorials: Board Game Design Day

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

In this talk, notable board game designer Cole Wehrle discusses his designs (including the acclaimed 'Root', 'Pax Pamir', 'An Infamous Traffic' and 'John Company') as part of a larger conversation around player interaction. Twenty years ago conflict-driven designs were the norm. Interaction and player-driven chaos were staples of design. Things could not be more different today. Not only have cooperative and solo designs found a massive space in today's board game market, but even complex strategy games have moved away from direct player interaction.

Wehrle will mount a defense for competitive multiplayer designs that don't shy away from giving players the ability to disrupt one another. In this light, designing for king-making (the explicit attempt to bolster another player) becomes the central key to enabling players to occupy the complex strategic positions that produce dramatic narratives. Over the past several years Wehrle has designed a series of games which attempt to investigate the subject of player agency and what can be learned from embracing strategies which push against better instincts.


Board games are uniquely suited to competitive, multi-lateral contests. This space is often neglected in video games which tend to favor team contests or 1vs1 formats. Attendees should come away from this talk with an expanded understanding of the challenges this space presents and a road-map for how to think through these contests.

Intended Audience

The success of 'Root' and other conflict games over the past few years demonstrates that there is a growing audience for
multi-lateral conflict games. This talk is intended for both players and development teams interested in exploring this format.