Digital Board Games in Education with Scott Rencher | Episode 131

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After spending ten years in strategy in the wireless and tablet groups for Intel, Scott was bitten viciously by the board gaming bug and left to pursue his passion. Five years prior he joins with North Star Games to startup a new studio focused on making great digital board games.  Scott now runs the development team and is the product manager for North Star Digital Studios.  Evolution Board Game was the studio’s first release, and Evolution: Education Edition now joins it as a digital board game targeting the education and learning space.

A regular day for Scott is mostly spent on a lot of video calls. As he is part of a remote development team with members all over the world, he spends most of his days behind his computer screen and therefore it has largely been unaffected by Covid-19. His main role is keeping the team’s priorities straight!

Scott’s roots and culture as a board game studio are to have one game every few years that is really polished and refined. Their goal was to replicate this in their transition to the digital world. However, Scott now says he didn’t realize just how ambitious that goal was five years ago! The key learning Scott took from this is to focus on what matters and makes the experience for your customers. If he were to approach this again, he would be tempted to cut some things out. An example of something that took them really long was the species (63 iterations!)

Scott’s favorite success story comes from the same period of time, one key milestone was when they took their game to PAXEast as the response they got was really positive. Theirs was unique and different, this inspired them to make the game as accessible as possible at the highest quality possible. From this, they followed up by launching on Kickstarter which went well and developed a community behind the game. He attributes that success to the art style of the game and the realism of the game valuing how something would play out in nature before gameplay.

When approaching a project at North Star their process is to first figure out what is fun and interesting and then try to get everything else out of the way. Often when developing games it’s easy to add a rule in to fix a problem but in Scott’s opinion they should be doing the opposite and take away rules striving ultimately for a game that is easy to learn but has a lot of depth. He has also realized, given that there are so many games and game designers, that it is really important to find what will make your game different. Otherwise, it will hardly make it in the open market.

A best practice for Scott would be to play it with new users, allowing these new users to struggle as this helps to learn more about your game so you can adapt it appropriately.

He would love to hear from someone in education about how they see games fitting in the educational process on the podcast, to better understand how that market can work since it is quite fractured. The book that Scott would recommend is The Lean Startup as it has a lot of great ideas about how you can quickly efficiently and test your core day mechanics and ideas without taking too many risks.

Scott would consider his superpower to be his ability to understand the user experience and thinking about something from their point of view.

His favorite digital game is Polytopia which is a Civilization-type game that is not nearly as complicated but has the same core game mechanics. Scott thinks they did a fantastic job and actually removed it from his iPad because it was so addictive and fun. Scott’s favorite board game at the moment is Quacks of Quedlinburg, he really enjoys this as it is a strategy game but anyone can win the game as there is a fair amount of luck involved.

Scott’s final piece of advice would be to enjoy the journey and relish it, enjoy talking about the game, discussing the game and everything else along the way.

We can find Scott and his team through, which will be on sale for some time! We can also reach him through the email which you can hear in the episode or on Twitter as @NSG_digital and as North Star Games on Facebook.


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