Behold: Méirén! As some of you may know, I have a particular love and appreciation for Japanese and Asian culture. I believe that these cultures involve aesthetically pleasing colours and images that draw me personally to games such as Tokaido, Machi Koro and Lotus. As Fang, Chen and Huang (2016 p. 7) outline, “the appearance of [a] traditional board [can] impress people at the first sight”. This is a main driving force behind my board game creation, to ensure that it is aesthetically pleasing which will influence imagery and invoke emotional responses both negative and positive between players.
Essentially convergence has played a huge part in the development of my game. As Booth (2015, p. 47) outlines, “convergence is a way of thinking anew about how producers and audiences enable content flow…All paratextual board games exist in a convergence between these two elements – reliance on an original text but deviation for game play mechanics”. This is another key concept I have focused on throughout the design process of my board game, as it involves relying on the original texts of the Disney film Mulan and board games Taikdo, Machi Koro and Lotus, however I have observed, interpreted, deviated and changed elements in order to create a converged yet original board game.
The Disney movie Mulan was the main fuel behind the overall theme of the board game. Méirén is a board game that can be played between 2-4 players, with the main aim of wanting to impress the matchmaker through being deemed a suitable bride and hence ready to marry some hunky soldier like Li Shang (if you don’t know who that is, go watch Mulan, NOW!). This is done through a points based game, gained through obtaining the various types of themed cards. The matchmaker theme was a pivotal scene in Mulan, which showcased the beauty of Chinese clothing and floral prints, the importance placed on pouring tea and cooking, and the trust placed in ancestors and guardians.
Each player picks a cartoon figure that has a different coloured traditional themed dress on.
Each of these figures will also have a particular special power unique to them, however I am still finalising the details of what each special power will be. The special power mechanic was evident in Lotus and Tokaido, which I found to be a useful and entertaining tool that I want to include in my board game. I also want to have actual figures, rather than the current card replicas I have at the moment for the various coloured figures, to give effect to the degree of materiality of the game. A corresponding small token of the same colour will also be used for scoring, similar to that seen in the functional mechanic in Tokaido. Each player will also start with six tokens; of which will be quite chunky and not made of cardboard which I have discovered can be easily damaged.
Essentially there are three groupings of cards:
- Main Playing Cards
- Bonus Cards
- Matchmaker Card
The main playing cards are then grouped into four different types of cards with sub categories within them:
- 24 x Clothing and Accessories Cards
- 4 x Hair Piece
- 4 x Make Up
- 4 x Dress
- 4 x Fan
- 4 x Umbrella
- 4 x Jade Necklace
- 20 x Food Cards
- 4 x Rice
- 4 x Dumplings
- 4 x Steamed Fish
- 4 x Sweat and Sour Pork
- 4 x Chow Mein
- 16 x Guardian Cards
- 4 x Azure Dragon of the East
- 4 x Vermilion Bird of the South
- 4 x White Tiger of the West
- 4 x Black Tortoise of the North
- 12 x Flower Cards
- 4 x Cherry Blossoms
- 4 x Orchid
- 4 x Lotus
I have staggered the amount of these cards so that there are six different types of clothing and accessory cards, five different types of food cards, four different kinds of guardians, of which are the Chinese guardians (the Four Symbols as they are actually referred to), and three types of flower cards. Each player will have a set of these cards, with their relevant colour to distinguish which set belongs to whom. Obviously if there are only two players wanting to play, then you would take out the cards that do not correlate with their colour. This mechanism I have adopted from Lotus, which involved each player having a colour specific set of cards which I found an incredibly useful tool and also stimulated friendly competition.
Each card will have a different value on it, ranging from 1 through to 5. In order to acquire a card, the player must land on a particular coloured square that represents one of the four different types of playing cards. They then have the option to purchase the item that appears on the top of their shuffled pile of that type of playing card, or choose to pass (e.g. having to pass if they do not have enough coins to purchase the item). It is here that I am struggling to decide how each player is going to re-acquire coins throughout the game and this is one of the final aspects I am working on to integrate into the game.
There are also bonus cards which currently are in two categories:
- 4 x Ancestor Approval Cards = Each individual player has their own ancestor approval card with their requisite colour on the card, however this card is only achieved if a player has collected all four guardian cards. This card is worth an extra 5 points.
- 1 x Emperor’s Recommendation Card = Currently there is only one Emperor’s Recommendation card, which is given to the person with the highest combined amount of points between the food and flower cards. It is based solely off a remark made by the Emperor in Mulan where he says to Li Shang, “you don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty”. This card is worth an extra 6 points and essentially acts as a trump card.
The inclusion of these cards is based on the bonus cards that can be acquired in Lotus and Tokaido, and essentially add an element of excitement to the game. However I am wanting to closely look at the inclusion of the Emperor’s Recommendation card in particular, as I have been thinking that I could increase the amount of this card to three, to prevent one particular player from ultimately ‘steaming ahead’ of the others. I am thinking of having a total of four emperor’s recommendation cards, meaning that once an individual obtains all their food and flower cards, they can get this bonus card. I am yet to decide on this and probably need to play test the game first.
Finally there is the Matchmaker card, which is given to the final player to essentially boast to the players that they won the matchmakers approval and will now be happily married while everyone else isn’t. This was added as a satirical way of concluding the game, of which is solely based on my desire for the winner to ‘get something’ for winning.
The physical board will have a very similar design to Tokaido, with particular emphasis on the multi-purpose feature of having the scoring system in a small part of the board while the playing board will occupy the remaining space. I am also thinking of having the physical board in the shape of a dragon, as it is an iconic symbol of China, so it will have a start and an end, most likely the head of the dragon being the beginning and the tail being the end. The person who ate Chinese food most recently will be the player that goes first, and the turns will be based on whoever is currently positioned last on the board, similar to the mechanic in Tokaido. This is an element of my game that I am still currently working on so I do not have any images just yet.
I am really looking forward to play testing my board game hopefully next week!
Booth, P 2015, ‘The Lord of the Rings as Convergent Media Play’, in Booth P (ed), Game Play: Paratextuality in Contemporary Board Games, Bloomsbury, London.
Fang, Y M, Chen, K M and Huang, Y J 2016, ‘Emotional reactions of different interface formats: Comparing digital and traditional board games’, Advances in Mechanical Engineering, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 1-8.
Jenkins, H 2006, Convergence Culture, New York University Press, New York.