Design Memory Lane: Affectionate Cats and Cuddles

In a previous post, I talked about the story behind making Affectionate: Cats and Cuddles and the sweet cat that inspired it and this morning I am going to talk about designing Affectionate: Cats and Cuddles. Initially, I just started with the design intent to make a simple game that honors Moku and the sweetness that he gave to the world. Some of the early designs had Affectionate as a card game focused on the various actions Moku did in life: be sweet, eat, get underfoot but the game would get more complicated when more cards were added.

This complexity did not fit my design and it was only when I had a breakthrough while waiting to demo Collectors and Capers: use a pair of dice and a pool of cuddle tokens to pull from. For the early prototypes, I used Fate dice, simple six-sided dice with either a blank, a plus, or a minus. With this prototype there was a single, simple idea for the rules: take the number of tokens from the middle and the total pluses and give tokens back into the middle equal to the number of minuses with the game ending once there are no more tokens in the middle. While this was simple it also lacked some interaction that makes a game a game. So I studied a number of bar games that used dice since I imagine that families playing Affectionate in a restaurant. This research led me to modify the actions slightly: with two minuses players could steal from another player and with two blanks another die is rolled that allows a player to either take 2 tokens or give another player a token depending on the roll. For those who have played Affectionate, you can recognize that this is close to what we see today.

As I playtested this game at Playtest Northwest events, a friend of mine from Daily Magic Games suggested that something should happen on every roll so that players didn’t feel like they lost a turn. As a result I came up with the idea of the silly tokens to be used for rerolls. With this the core of Affectionate was complete. For the next several months, I worked on expanding silly tokens upon receiving feedback from several playtests. Some of these abilities included having the option not to roll and take other actions at the cost of silly tokens. This system led to more design frustrations and eventually I looked at the design and realized that it was moving away from being a simple, silly game and was becoming more and more complex.

This revelation helped me refocus the design back to where we have today: a simple dice rolling game designed for kids and families. This jaunt down design memory lane goes to show how a simple idea can drastically change over time. Also, for me, Affectionate is both a way for me to remember a beloved pet but also a learning experience on how to design simple, family games and how to stick to the design intent of a game as it changes.