To celebrate the release of the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, we asked some of the world’s top board game designers to tell us about the first game they fell in love with, and whether it still holds up for them today. Today we hear from Andrew Looney.
The first board game I ever fell in love with was Sorry! I have fond memories of playing Sorry (and other board games) with my mom as she sorted laundry. For her, such distractions were a great way of keeping me busy while she also got a few chores done.
Much as I loved Sorry growing up, I hadn’t played it in such a long time that I wasn’t even clear on all the rules anymore. So, we dusted off my old copy, and I fell in love all over again.
It’s really quite fascinating to see how clearly I was influenced by this game. On the face of it, Sorry is just a simple race game, where you seek to move 4 tokens of your color from the Start space to the Home Space. What makes it different from Parcheesi and Trouble is the deck of cards that take the place of dice. The cards have numbers ranging from 1 to 12, but in addition to the movement points conveyed by these numbers, each card also features special action text! Each number has its own special power, and like my own Fluxx cards, the text on each card explains exactly what it does.
Pairing special actions with pseudo-dice results was a brilliant decision by designer William Henry Storey. This adds an always-different feeling to each turn, and allows for crappy movement results to be improved by giving them a particularly important power – only on a 1 or a 2 do you have the power to move one of your 4 dudes out of the start spot. My favorite is the power of the 4—you move backwards.
The other element that I think makes Sorry so special are the slide spaces. There’s a visceral joy one gets from hitting one of those slides and zooming your dude along it, knocking others aside in your wake and giggling “Sorry!” as you do. But this also provides a random, chaotic set-back element that helps level the playing field and keep everyone interested in the game right up to the end.
I really only found one thing about the game I wanted to change, which led to a fun variation we call “Sorry Dude!” Instead of just flipping the top card and taking that action, we play it like an Andy Looney game: Everyone starts with 3 cards, and then draws 1 and plays 1 during their turn. This adds a lot more strategy and makes a classic even better! To make it even more “Looney,” we replaced the standard pawns with 2 point pyramids, and added the word “dude” whenever saying “Sorry!”
Speaking of the pyramids, check out Martian Coasters to see the pyramid game I designed that reminds me the most of Sorry!
Andrew Looney is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of the College Park, MD-based game company Looney Labs. He’s best known for designing the many flavors of Fluxx, and for creating Looney Pyramids (a.k.a. Icehouse pieces). He is the designer of dozens of games for the pyramids, including Treehouse, IceTowers, Martian Chess, Martian Coasters, World War Five, IceDice, and Zark City. He’s a Trekkie, a hippie, an Eagle Scout, and a former NASA engineer who once wrote software that flew on the Hubble Telescope.